Physical fitness of paraplegics in full wheelchair marathon racing

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The wheelchair marathon is one of the most difficult sports for participants with much uncertainty regarding the security of the paraplegics. The physical fitness of paraplegics has been examined regularly since The Oita International Wheelchair Marathon (half marathon) was inaugurated (1981). A full marathon (42.195 km) was adopted at The 3rd Meeting (1983). The individual equations between heart rate (HR) and oxygen consumption VO2 were drawn from the preliminary test on the subjects who were expected to be among the top finishers in these races. VO2 during these races was indirectly estimated and showed a fairly low value (35.0 ± 3.8 ml/kg/min in the full race, 32.7 ±6.3 ml\kg\min in the half race respectively) in comparison with able-bodied elite runners. However, the paraplegic participants had extremely high HR (171.6 ±20.5 beats/min, 168.1 ± 9.8) continuously throughout the race. Though the ratio of active muscle mass of arms to legs in paraplegic athletes may approximate to near equal, paraplegic arms seem to exert physiologically and mechanically less efficient power. There were no significant differences in physical fitness between the full and the half marathon elite finishers. The cardiovascular function of paraplegic athletes may well be ranked among those of able-bodied athletes in their fitness. Full wheelchair marathon seems to be safe if it is held in an appropriate environment.


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Asayama, K., Nakamura, Y., Ogata, H. et al. Physical fitness of paraplegics in full wheelchair marathon racing. Spinal Cord 23, 277–287 (1985) doi:10.1038/sc.1985.45

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  • Paraplegia
  • Wheelchair marathon
  • Physical fitness
  • Heart rate recording
  • Oxygen consumption

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