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Disabil Rehabil. 2010;32(26):2172-90. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2010.505678.

Boosting in athletes with high-level spinal cord injury: knowledge, incidence and attitudes of athletes in paralympic sport.

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Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta, Canada.


Autonomic dysreflexia (AD) is unique to individuals with spinal injuries (SCI) at T6 or above and can be voluntarily induced. Although AD improves wheelchair racing performance in some athletes, it also elicits exaggerated blood pressure, which could be dangerous. The International Paralympic Committee considers AD doping and banned its use.


The purpose of this study is to evaluate AD knowledge, incidence and attitudes (KIA) of Paralympians with SCI.


An existing questionnaire was modified to include questions of AD KIA, validated by three experts and piloted with a small sample. It was administered on-line, mailed to members of a scientific network and distributed during the Beijing Paralympic Games. Fisher Exact test was used to evaluate differences across gender, injury and education.


Of 99 participants, 54.5% had previously heard of AD while 39.4% were unaware; 16.7%, all males, had used AD to enhance performance. Participants reported that AD was (1) useful for middle (78.6%) and long distance (71.4%), marathon (64.3%) and wheelchair rugby (64.3%); (2) somewhat dangerous (48.9%), dangerous (21.3%) or very dangerous (25.5%) to health. Results were not influenced by age, injury level or injury duration.


Findings indicate the need for educational programmes directed towards enhancing the AD knowledge of rehabilitation professionals, coaches and trainers working with SCI individuals.

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