Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of wheelchair sports on respiratory muscle strength and the thoracic mobility of individuals with spinal cord injury.
Design: Thirty male subjects with chronic spinal cord injury (American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale grade A) took part in the study and were divided into four groups: sedentary subjects with quadriplegia (S-QUAD, n = 7), wheelchair rugby athletes with quadriplegia (A-QUAD, n = 8), sedentary subjects with paraplegia (S-PARA, n = 6), and wheelchair basketball athletes with paraplegia (A-PARA, n = 9). The main outcome measures were maximal inspiratory and expiratory pressure and the respiratory coefficients at the axillary and xiphoid levels.
Results: A-QUAD group presented values significantly higher for all respiratory variables studied compared with the S-QUAD group. No significant differences in any of the respiratory variables were observed between S-PARA and A-PARA groups. There was a negative correlation between spinal cord injury level and respiratory variables for the S-QUAD and S-PARA groups. There were positive correlations in the A-QUAD group between time of training and maximal inspiratory pressure (adjusted R2 = 0.84; P = 0.001) and respiratory coefficients at the axillary level (adjusted R2 = 0.80; P = 0.002).
Conclusions: Physical training seems to have a positive influence on respiratory muscle strength and thoracic mobility, especially in subjects with quadriplegia.