Article | Published:

Physiological responses during a 25-km time trial in elite wheelchair racing athletes

Spinal Cord Series and Casesvolume 4, Article number: 77 (2018) | Download Citation


Study Design:

Observational study.


To characterize the cardiorespiratory and metabolic response of elite wheelchair racing (WCR) athletes during a 25 km, field-based time trial.


University laboratory and field racing course in Urbana, Illinois, USA.


Seven elite WCR athletes (4 men/3 women) with spinal cord injury completed an incremental exercise test to exhaustion on a computerized wheelchair roller system to determine peak cardiorespiratory capacity in the laboratory. The athletes then completed a long-distance, field-based time trial (i.e., 25 km) within 5 days. Energy expenditure was measured continuously during the time trial with a portable metabolic unit. Blood samples were collected to determine blood lactate and glucose concentrations. Core temperature was measured using an ingestible sensor thermistor.


Five participants completed the long-distance time trial with usable cardiorespiratory data. Median heart rate and oxygen consumption during the time trial was 93.6% and 76.6% of peak values, respectively. Median energy expenditure was 504.6 kcal/h. There was a significant increase in blood lactate concentration from 0.7 to 4.0 mmol/L after the time trial (p = 0.03). There were no changes in blood glucose concentrations after the time trial (p = 0.27). Lastly, core temperature significantly increased from 37.1 at baseline to 38.7 °C immediately after the time trial (p = 0.01).


Elite WCR athletes sustained a high exercise intensity that was consistent across the long-distance time trial, and exercise intensity outcomes were generally lower than those documented for elite able-bodied long-distance athletes in other studies. Our findings provide accurate estimates of energy expenditure that can be used to design effective training and racing strategies for elite WCR athletes.

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Author information


  1. School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada

    • Thomas Edwards
    •  & Michael De Lisio
  2. School of Health Sciences, Emory and Henry College, Emory, VA, USA

    • J. P. Barfield
  3. Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA

    • Grace M. Niemiro
    • , Joseph W. Beals
    •  & Nicholas A. Burd
  4. US Olympic Committee, Chula Vista, CA, USA

    • Elizabeth M. Broad
  5. Department of Physical Therapy, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA

    • Robert W. Motl
  6. Brain and Mind Research Institute, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada

    • Michael De Lisio
    •  & Lara A. Pilutti
  7. Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada

    • Lara A. Pilutti


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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lara A. Pilutti.

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