Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the influence of disability type on exercise response during power wheelchair competition. The secondary purpose was to determine the extent to which heart rate responses during competition meet cardiorespiratory fitness training intensities for the general population.
Methods: Forty-eight athletes who had cerebral palsy (CP, N = 31), spinal cord injury (SCI, N = 10), or muscular dystrophy (MD, N = 7), and were competing in the 2003 Power Soccer National Tournament, volunteered to participate. Heart rate was recorded every 5 s throughout pregame and game conditions by Polar S610TM monitors. Average heart rate (HR) values were determined for GAME and RESPONSE (change score between GAME HR and pregame HR). The Kruskal–Wallis nonparametric test was used to determine whether a significant difference among group medians existed on the dependent measure, RESPONSE (P < 0.05).
Results: A significant difference on RESPONSE (P < 0.05) existed among athletes with CP (29 bpm), SCI (17 bpm), and MD (26 bpm). The median RESPONSE for athletes with CP was 12 bpm higher than athletes with SCI, and this difference was significant (P < 0.01). Further, 22 athletes with CP (71%), 5 athletes with MD (71%), and 1 athlete with SCI (10%) exceeded 55% of estimated HRmax for at least 30 min during competition.
Conclusion: Disability type influences the heart rate response to power wheelchair sport, and may affect the ability to sustain training intensities associated with fitness improvement.