Background: Wheelchair Fencing (WF) is a Paralympic sport in which athletes with amputations, spinal cord injuries and cerebral palsy are eligible to compete in foil epee (men and
women) and saber (men) events. Their wheelchairs are fastened to the floor during competition. Studies have suggested that physical demand in WF is moderate and that both oxidative and glycolytic
pathways are moderately recruited. Currently, there is minimal research that evaluated physiological responses during field tests in WF athletes. Field evaluation is useful due to its high
specificity, cost-effective and simplicity. Furthermore, the results of such testing could be more relevant for feedback or to plan training strategies. Therefore, the aim of this study was to develop
a WF performance test and to assess its validity against a laboratory arm crank ergometer test.
Methods:Five WF athletes with spinal cord injury (T1-L1; 3 men, 2 women, 3 in class A and 2 in class B; 33±7 years old, 71±10 kg of body mass, 171±7 cm of height, 18±2 h/week of
training, 6±3 years of WF experience) participated in this study. Each athlete completed an incremental arm cranking test (arm ergometer MONARK 881E) to determine the peak cardiorespiratory responses
(Vmax Metabolic Cart). Protocol consisted of 2 min of baseline phase, 3 min of warm-up phase (free wheel), followed by a ramp exercise phase with increments of 10-15 W every minute. One week later,
each athlete performed a WF performance test, which consisted in a fighting sequence with foil against the trainer until exhaustion. Duration, peak heart rate (POLAR RS800), and peak lactate
concentration (ACCUTREND) were obtained. Rate of perceived exertion using the adapted Borg Category Ratio CR-10 was determined after both laboratory and field tests. Descriptive statistics were
calculated for each variable. Pearson correlation was used to verify the relationship between laboratory and field test measures. The results were considered to be significant at the 0.05 level of
confidence. All statistical analyses were computed using the SPSS v.20.
Results: Peak physiological responses during incremental arm cranking test were 1.41±0.36 L/min and 19.95±3.89 ml/kg/min of oxygen consumption (VO2peak), 160±27 bpm of heart rate
(HRpeak), 59±15 L/min of ventilation, 1.19±0.05 of RER, 498±143 s of duration (Tlim), Borg arm (6±1.1), and Borg dyspnea (4±2.3). Peak responses during WF performance test were 162±23 bpm, 8±2 mmol/L,
72±18 s of duration, Borg arm (6±2), and Borg dyspnea (6±2). HRpeak achieved during WF performance test was 97±6% of HRpeak achieved during arm cranking test. Strong correlation coefficients were
observed between duration of WF performance test and Tlim (R=0.92 p=0.03) and VO2peak (R=0.86 p=0.058).
Conclusions: These initial results indicated that WF performance test seems to be a valid field test to assess aerobic capacity in WF athletes. Further analyses with increased sample
size are necessary for an accurate test validation.