The number of individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) participating in sports at recreational and elite levels is on the rise. However, loss of autonomic nervous system function below the lesion can compromise thermoregulatory capacity and increase the risk of heat stress relative to able-bodied (AB) individuals.
Purpose: To test the hypotheses that exercise in a heated environment would increase tympanic temperature (TTY) more in individuals with SCI than AB individuals, and that foot cooling using a new device would attenuate the rise in TTY during exercise in both groups.
Methods: Six subjects with SCI (lesions C5–T5) and six AB controls were tested in a heated environment (means ± SEM, temperature ± 31.8 ± 0.2°C, humidity ± 26 ± 1%) for 45 min at 66% ± 5 of arm cranking V˙ O2peak and 30 min of recovery on two separate occasions with foot cooling (FC) or no foot cooling (NC) in randomized order.
Results: During exercise and recovery in both trials, SCI TTY was elevated above baseline (P < 0.001) but more so in the NC versus FC trial (1.6 ± 0.2°C vs 1.0 ± 0.2°C, respectively, P < 0.005). Within the AB group, TTY was elevated above baseline for both trials (P < 0.001) with peak increases of 0.5 ± 0.2°C and 0.3 ± 0.2°C for NC and FC, respectively. TTY, face, and back temperature were higher in both SCI trials compared with AB trials (P < 0.05). Heart rate during exercise and recovery was lower in the SCI FC versus SCI NC (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: These results suggest that extraction of heat through the foot may provide an effective way to manipulate tympanic temperature in individuals with SCI, especially during exercise in the heat.



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This is a non-final version of an article published in final form in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

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