Effects of abdominal binding on field-based exercise responses in Paralympic athletes with cervical spinal cord injury

Abdominal binding has been shown to improve resting cardiorespiratory function in individuals with cervical SCI, but it is not yet clear whether this approach improves the exercise response. Objectives: To determine the effects of abdominal binding on parameters relating to wheelchair sports performance in highly-trained athletes with cervical SCI. Design: Repeated-measures field-based study. Methods: Ten Paralympic wheelchair rugby players with motor-complete SCI (C5-C7) completed a series of exercise tests in two conditions (bound and unbound). The following parameters were assessed: agility and acceleration/deceleration performance; cardiorespiratory function and gross efficiency during submaximal wheelchair propulsion; anaerobic performance and propulsion kinematics during a 30. s Wingate test; repeated sprint performance during a 10 × 20. m test; and aerobic performance during a repeated 4. min push test. Results: Compared to unbound, 6 of 17 field-based performance measures changed significantly with binding. Time to complete the acceleration/deceleration test decreased (p= 0.005), whereas distances covered during the repeated 4. min push test increased (p < 0.043). Binding elicited significant reductions in minute ventilation during submaximal wheelchair propulsion (p= 0.040) as well as blood lactate accumulation and limb discomfort during the second set of the repeated 4. min push test (p= 0.012 and 0.022). There were no statistically significant effects of binding on any other variable. Conclusions: Abdominal binding improves some important measures of field-based performance in highly-trained athletes with cervical SCI. The changes may be attributable, at least in part, to improvements in trunk stability, ventilatory efficiency and/or haemodynamics.