Thermoregulatory responses during competitive wheelchair rugby match play

The purpose of this study was to determine whether a player’s physical impairment or activity profile was related to the amount of thermal strain experienced during wheelchair rugby match play. Seventeen elite wheelchair rugby players played a competitive match, whilst activity profiles, measures of core and skin temperature, heart rate and perceptual responses were taken. Players were divided into two groups depending on their physical impairment; players with a cervical spinal cord injury, (n = 10) or non-spinal related physical impairment (n = 7). Total distance was lower (4842 ± 324 m vs. 5541 ± 316 m, p < 0.01, ES = 2.2) and mean speed slower (1.13 ± 0.11 m∙s-1 vs 1.27 ± 0.11 m∙s-1, p < 0.03, ES = 1.3) in players with a spinal cord injury. Yet, the change in core temperature (1.6 ± 0.4°C vs. 0.7 ± 0.3°C, p < 0.01, ES = 2.5) was significantly greater in players with a spinal cord injury. In conclusion, players with a spinal cord injury were under greater thermal strain during wheelchair rugby match play, as a result of their reduced heat loss capacity, due to their physical impairment and not because of their activity profile.