Thermoregulatory responses of spinal cord injured and able-bodied athletes to prolonged upper body exercise and recovery

M. J. Price, I. G. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)


Study design: Single trial, two factor repeated measures design. Setting: England, Cheshire. Objectives: To examine the thermoregulatory responses of able-bodied (AB) athletes, paraplegic (PA) athletes and a tetraplegic (TP) athlete at rest, during prolonged upper body exercise and recovery. Methods: Exercise was performed on a Monark cycle ergometer (Ergomedic 814E) adapted for arm exercise at 60% VO2 peak for 60 min in cool conditions ('normal laboratory temperature; 21.5 ± 1.7°C and 47 ± 7.8% relative humidity). Aural and skin temperatures were continually monitored. Results: Mean (± S.D.) peak oxygen uptake values were greater (P < 0.05) for the AB when compared to the PA (3.45 ± 0.45 1 min-1 and 2.00 ± 0.46 1 min-1, respectively). Peak oxygen uptake for the TP was 0.91 1 min-1. At rest, aural temperature was similar between groups (36.2 ± 0.3°C, 36.3 ± 0.3°C and 36.3°C for AB, PA and TP athletes, respectively). During exercise, aural temperature demonstrated relatively steady state values increasing by 0.6 ± 0.4°C and 0.6 ± 0.3°C for the AB and PA athletes, respectively. The TP athlete demonstrated a gradual rise in aural temperature throughout the exercise period of 0.9°C. Thigh skin temperature increased by 1.3 ± 25°C for the AB athletes (P < 0.05) whereas the PA athletes demonstrated little change in temperature (0.1 ± 3.4°C and -0.7°C respectively). Calf temperature increased for the PA athletes by 1.0 ± 3.6°C (P < 0.05), whereas a decrease was observed for the AB athletes of -1.0 ± 2.0°C (P < 0.05) during the exercise period. During 30 min of passive recovery, the AB athletes demonstrated greater decreases in aural temperatures than those for the PA athletes (P < 0.05). Aural temperature for the TP increased peaking at 5 min of recovery remaining elevated until the end of the recovery period. Fluid consumption and weight losses were similar for the AB and PA athletes (598 ± 433 ml and 403 ± 368 ml; 0.38 ± 0.39 kg and 0.38 ± 0.31 kg, respectively), whereas changes in plasma volume were greater for the AB athletes (-9.8 ± 5.8% and 4.36 ± 4.9%, respectively; P < 0.05). Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that under the experimental conditions PA athletes are at no greater thermal risk than AB athletes. A relationship between the available muscle mass for heat production and sweating capacity appears evident for the maintenance of thermal balance. During recovery from exercise, decreases in aural temperature, skin temperature and heat storage were greatest for the AB athletes with the greatest capacity for heat loss and lowest for the TP athlete with the smallest capacity for heat loss. Initial observations on one TP athlete suggest substantial thermoregulatory differences when compared to AB and PA athletes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)772-779
Number of pages8
JournalSpinal Cord
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Aural temperature
  • Paraplegia
  • Recovery
  • Skin temperature
  • Tetraplegia arm crank exercise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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