Effects of cooling before and during simulated match play on thermoregulatory responses of athletes with tetraplegia

Objectives: Athletes with high level spinal cord injuries (tetraplegia) are under greater thermal strain during exercise than the able-bodied. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of pre-cooling using an ice vest and the combination of pre-cooling and cooling during play using water sprays in athletes with tetraplegia. Design: Balanced, cross-over design. Methods: Eight wheelchair rugby players with tetraplegia completed a 60 min intermittent sprint protocol (ISP) on a wheelchair ergometer in 20.2 °C ± 0.2 °C and 33.0 % ± 3.1 % relative humidity. The ISP was conducted on three occasions; no cooling (NC), pre-cooling with an ice vest (P) and pre-cooling with an ice vest and water sprays between quarters (PW). Gastrointestinal (Tgi) temperature, mean skin temperature (Tsk) and perceptual responses were measured throughout. Results: At the end of pre-cooling, the change in Tgi was not significantly different between conditions (P>0.05) but the change in Tsk was significantly greater in P and PW compared to NC (P<0.001). The change in Tgi over the ISP was significantly lower in PW and P compared to NC (P<0.05), whilst the change in Tsk was lower in PW compared to P and NC (P<0.05). Cooling had no effect on performance or perceptual responses (P>0.05). Conclusions: Water spraying between quarters combined with pre-cooling using an ice vest lowers thermal strain to a greater degree than pre-cooling only in athletes with tetraplegia, but has no effect on simulated wheelchair rugby performance or perceptual responses.