Background: Impairment in the respiratory muscles of tetraplegic persons is reflected by alterations in the rib cage and abdominal motion patterns during breathing, as well as
decreases in lung volumes. Since wheelchair rugby is an intense physical activity for disabled persons, its practice could lead to positive improvements in the respiratory system of people with spinal
cord injuries. The purpose of this study was to analyse the effect of one year of wheelchair rugby training on thoracoabdominal mobility and its relationship with lung volume in adults with
Methods: Seven male adults with chronic spinal cord injury at cervical level underwent to regular training in wheelchair rugby. At the beginning of the protocol and after one year of
training, lung volume and tridimensional thoracoabdominal mobility were obtained simultaneously by spirometric testing and kinematic analysis, respectively. Spirometric testing followed standard
recommendations. For the kinematical analysis of thoracoabdominal motion, six synchronised Basler cameras were used to record the subjects during quiet breathing as well as maximal breathing. The 3D
coordinates of 30 markers positioned on the chest wall surface were used to calculate the mobility of four chest wall compartments (superior and inferior thorax, superior and inferior abdomen).
Improvements in thoracoabdominal mobility and lung volumes were tested using the Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test. The relationship between thoracoabdominal mobility and lung volume was verified by linear
Results: Significant improvements were observed for the tidal volume (16.9%; p=0.04), and superior thorax (61.3%; p=0.04) and inferior thorax mobility (83.7%; p=0.01) during quiet
breathing. No significant relationship was found at the beginning of the protocol. After training, there was a significant linear relationship between tidal volume and mobility of the superior thorax
(r2=0.61; p=0.04) and inferior thorax (r2=0.82; p=0.01). During maximal breathing, significant improvements were found for the vital capacity (24.8%; p=0.01) and superior thorax mobility (31.5%;
p=0.04), and there was a significant linear relationship between the vital capacity and mobility of the superior thorax (r2=0.79; p=0.01), inferior thorax (r2=0.79; p=0.01) and superior abdomen
Conclusions: Wheelchair rugby training leads to improvements in respiratory function parameters. These findings could support the practice of wheelchair rugby to reduce respiratory
dysfunction in tetraplegics.