Efficacy of water spray for evaporative cooling in athletes with spinal cord injury

Michelle Trbovich, Wouter Koek, Catherine Ortega

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Study design: Interventional crossover study. Objective: Spinal cord injury (SCI) disrupts afferent input to the hypothalamus and impairs efferent vaso- and sudomotor output, especially in lesions above the sympathetic chain (T1-L2). In consequence, persons with SCI under heat stress experience impairment in the ability to dissipate heat proportional to the lesion level. Thermoregulatory dysfunction places an individual at high risk of hyperthermia, which can be life threatening, especially for athletes with SCI during exercise. Current evidence on therapeutic cooling techniques in athletes with SCI is limited, but basic physiologic and research data suggest water spray (WS) might be efficacious, particularly in athletes with tetraplegia (TP), who are most impaired in thermoregulation. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of WS on core temperature (Tc) during exercise in athletes with SCI. Setting: Texas, USA. Methods: Eleven individuals with SCI: seven with TP, four with paraplegia (PP); and sixteen able-bodied (AB) controls underwent a wheelchair intermittent sprint exercise for 90 min under two conditions: (1) WS application every 15 min and (2) control (C), without WS. Tc was measured every 15 min and was analyzed for the effect of group (TP, PP, and AB) and time. Change in Tc (ΔTc) was also compared between groups. Results: ΔTc was significantly higher in TP vs. PP (p < 0.0001) and TP vs. AB (p < 0.0001) groups under C treatment. WS significantly attenuated ΔTc in TP (p = 0.001), but did not change ΔTc in PP or AB. Conclusion: WS effectively attenuated Tc elevation during exercise in athletes with TP. Sponsorship: Texas chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number51
JournalSpinal Cord Series and Cases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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