Loughborough University
Thesis-2012-Croft.pdf (4.84 MB)

Investigating energy expenditure in wheelchair athletes

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posted on 2012-05-16, 08:35 authored by Louise Croft
The increased participation in elite wheelchair sport has provided the need to investigate the physiological requirements of wheelchair sporting competition and daily wheelchair propulsion. However, from a nutritional perspective, guidelines that have been established from the able-bodied population tend to be used by the practitioners working in disability sport and it is not known whether this information is directly transferable to the wheelchair athlete. Wheelchair sport is complex and athletes differ with respect to their sports classification based on factors relating to disability and functional capacity. Therefore, if nutritional guidance is required to optimise performance then information regarding energy expenditure (EE) in the wheelchair sports population becomes important for specific feedback. The aim of this thesis was to investigate EE in wheelchair athletes. The results from Chapter 3 found resting energy expenditure (REE) in tetraplegic athletes to be lower than that calculated using predictive equations derived from an ablebodied cohort. However, paraplegic athletes showed comparable values to those which were predicted, suggesting these equations may be of use in paraplegic athletes. Chapter 4 extended this work and found similarities in the REE of the two aforementioned cohorts. This could have been due to the similarities that were found in their total-body fat free mass (FFM). The results from Chapter 5 showed EE reduced after both a short 36 minute exposure of wheelchair propulsion and after 3 weeks of wheelchair propulsion practice in novice wheelchair users. Temporal parameters improved after the practice period, suggesting there is an association between EE and propulsion technique. Chapter 6 extended these findings with results confirming that experienced wheelchair users expended significantly less energy during wheelchair propulsion than novice individuals who had up to 3 weeks practice. It is clear that EE of daily wheelchair ambulation should not be a generic value and different levels of experience must be considered so that the nutritional needs can be tailored accordingly. Chapters 7 and 8 examined the physiological demands of elite competitive wheelchair basketball players in relation to the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) classification categories and identified differences in the physiological demands and physiological fitness of wheelchair basketball and tennis players. These results found that IWBF Class 3 – 4.5 (high point) players expended more energy per hour during competition than those with a lower classification (IWBF Class 1 – 2.5). However, when actual playing time was considered the low classification group showed a similar EE to the higher classification group. Furthermore, wheelchair basketball players had a higher EE per hour than wheelchair tennis players during elite competition. However, the wheelchair tennis players spent a significantly longer duration on court resulting in similar EE during a typical competition within each sport. This suggests nutritional advice should be tailored both to the duration of competitive play (where EE may be similar between sports (basketball vs. tennis)); and to training (where athletes with a higher functional capacity may have higher EE). This thesis revealed several important physiological considerations to appreciate when investigating the EE of wheelchair sportsmen and women. Findings would suggest that type of disability, wheelchair propulsion experience and sport classification are all important considerations for the accurate assessment of EE in this cohort of athletes.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


© L.E. Croft

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en