n South African Journal of Sports Medicine - Heat storage in upper and lower body during high-intensity exercise in athletes with spinal cord injuries : original research

Volume 23, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1015-5163
  • E-ISSN: 2078-516X



The thermophysiology of athletes with spinal cord injuries (SCI) is not well understood. Spinal cord lesions impact muscle mass, thermoregulatory neural signals and circulatory function. Understanding SCI thermoregulation physiology would benefit exercise function. Therefore, this study was designed to describe heat storage in the upper and lower bodies of SCI and able-bodied (AB) athletes.

Seven SCI and 8 AB athletes (matched for arm-crank VO peak) performed a ramp protocol in an environment similar to an indoor competitive environment (21°C±1.5°C, 55±3% relative humidity).
SCI athletes experienced similar upper-body heat storage of 0.82±0.59 J.g-1 and lower-body heat storage of 0.47±0.33 J.g-1 compared with that of AB athletes at 0.80±0.61 J.g-1 and 0.27±0.22 J.g-1 for upper and lower body, respectively. There were no significant differences between groups for rectal temperature (T) or oesophageal temperature (T). However, mean skin temperature (M) was significantly higher for SCI throughout the exercise bout (=0.006).
The results of this study suggest that SCI and AB athletes appear to thermoregulate in a similar manner, though SCI tend to store slightly more heat.

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