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Wheelchair propulsion: effects of experience and push strategy on efficiency and perceived exertion

Lenton, John P. and Fowler, Neil E. and van der Woude, Lucas and Goosey-Tolfrey, Victoria L. (2008) Wheelchair propulsion: effects of experience and push strategy on efficiency and perceived exertion. and metabolism, 33 (5). 870 - 879. ISSN 1715-5312

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the role of wheeling experience on efficiency, metabolic cost, and differentiated ratings of perceived exertion (RPEs) during synchronous and asynchronous hand-rim propulsion with varying arm frequencies. Fourteen able-bodied (AB) male participants and 8 male wheelchair sportsmen (WS) performed tests of peak oxygen consumption for both propulsion modes. Subsequently, 2 series of five 4-min sub-maximal exercise bouts were completed at an individualized velocity (60% of peak oxygen consumption). Arm frequencies consisted of the freely chosen frequency (FCF), followed by 4 counter-balanced paced trials pushing at 60%, 80%, 120%, and 140% of the FCF. Efficiency indices (gross, GE; work, WE) were determined and peripheral (RPE-P), central (RPE-C), and overall (RPE-O) RPEs were recorded. The GE (6.4% vs. 8.4%) and WE (11.3% vs. 15.1%) were significantly higher in WS than in AB (p = 0.001). Trends in the oxygen consumption, GE, and WE data were similar in both groups, propulsion mode, and arm frequency. Data suggest that 80% FCF resulted in improved efficiency for both propulsion mode and group, although the differences between those arm frequencies immediately above and below were non-significant. Lower RPE scores corresponded with higher efficiency values. Regardless of group there were significant differences (p = 0.001) between the differentiated RPE measures, whereby RPE-P was on average always the highest score (13.1) and RPE-C the lowest (11.1; RPE-O was 12.2). In conclusion, despite the anticipated differences in efficiency between the WS and AB participants, this study confirmed that psycho-physiological measures produce similar trends to physiological measures with manipulations of both arm frequency and propulsion mode.

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