Purpose: The purpose of this study was 1) to describe the acute cardiorespiratory and metabolic responses of Paralympic athletes participating in the following five sports: Nordic sit skiing (NS, n = 5), wheelchair distance racing (WR, n = 6), wheelchair basketball (WB, n = 13), wheelchair fencing (WF, n = 6), and wheelchair tennis (WT, n = 4); and 2) to examine the relationship between field test performance and laboratory measures of aerobic fitness of these Paralympic athletes.
Methods: Each athlete completed an incremental arm cranking exercise test to determine ventilatory threshold (VT) and peak oxygen uptake (V˙O2peak). Subsequently, field assessments were carried out using a telemetric system to measure the cardiorespiratory responses in their respective sport.
Results: VT and V˙O2peak (both expressed in milliliters per kilogram per minute) of athletes competing in NS (38.3 ± 5.76 and 51.0 ± 6.92 mL·kg−1·min−1) and WR (35.5 ± 5.96 and 48.1 ± 6.35 mL·kg−1·min−1) were significantly higher (P < 0.05) than those competing in WB (26.0 ± 2.13 and 36.9 ± 3.70 mL·kg−1·min−1), WF (23.2 ± 3.96 and 34.4 ± 5.81 mL·kg−1·min−1), and WT (24.0 ± 2.30 and 33.1 ± 2.85 mL·kg−1·min−1). In the field tests, the average V˙O2, higher in NS and WR than in WB, WF, and WT, during NS, WR, WB, WF, and WT was 79.4% ± 3.30%, 84.4% ± 2.10%, 72.1% ± 5.72%, 73.0% ± 3.10%, and 73.0% ± 1.91%, respectively, of V˙O2peak. There was a strong linear relationship between V˙O2 measured during the field tests and VT and V˙O2peak (R2 = 0.92 in each case).
Conclusions: Athletes regulated their average work intensity during the field tests in the five Paralympic sports to approximate their individualized VT measured during incremental arm cranking exercise test, and this intensity was within the range recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine to improve cardiorespiratory fitness in well-trained subjects. In addition, performance of Paralympic athletes in these sports was highly dependent upon athletes' aerobic fitness.