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Volume 39 Number 1, January/February 2002

Normative values and determinants of physical capacity in individuals with spinal cord injury


Thomas W.J. Janssen, PhD; Annet J. Dallmeijer, PhD; DirkJan (HEJ) Veeger, PhD; Luc H.V. van der Woude, PhD

Vrije Universiteit, Institute for Fundamental and Clinical Human Movement Sciences; Faculty of Human Movement Sciences; Rehabilitation Center Amsterdam and Centrum voor Orthopedietechniek; Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Abstract: We reanalyzed data from five studies with similar or identical methodology performed by our laboratory to define normative values and determinants of physical capacity in individuals with tetraplegia and paraplegia. Each study consisted of a graded wheelchair exercise test to determine peak oxygen uptake and maximal power output and could additionally include a wheelchair sprint test to determine short-term (anaerobic) power output and/or an isometric strength test. The combined subject population included 166 individuals (20 women), varying considerably for age, body mass, lesion level, time since injury, and activity level. Ranges in physical capacity parameters were extensive and normative values for individuals with tetraplegia and paraplegia were established. These physical capacity norms could be used for evaluation of fitness status and training or therapeutic interventions. Multiple regression procedures indicated that 48-80% of the variance in physical capacity could be explained by lesion level and completeness, activity level, gender, age, body mass, and time since injury. Although physical capacity is largely determined by factors that cannot be altered, such as lesion level, age, and gender, changeable factors such as activity level and body mass play an additional role.

Key words: aerobic power, exercise tolerance, normative values, paraplegia, physical capacity, spinal cord injury, strength, tetraplegia.
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