Shoulder pain: a comparison of wheelchair athletes and nonathletic wheelchair users

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003 Dec;35(12):1958-61. doi: 10.1249/01.MSS.0000099082.54522.55.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to directly compare the onset and prevalence of shoulder pain in athletic and nonathletic wheelchair users.

Methods: A questionnaire was distributed to athletic and nonathletic wheelchair-dependent populations. This inquired about presence and duration of shoulder pain, age of subject, level of injury, duration of time since injury, wheelchair use, involvement in sports, and training habits. A total of 257 subjects were involved in the study.

Results: The odds of having shoulder pain were twice as high among nonathletes as they were among athletes. This finding represents a significant difference over and above age differences, differences in years spent in a wheelchair, and differences in level of spinal cord injury. Athletes also have an average of 12 yr free of shoulder pain after becoming wheelchair bound, whereas nonathletes have only 8 yr.

Conclusion: Promotion of active exercise for wheelchair users is encouraged to decrease shoulder pain, resulting in more functional, pain-free years.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prevalence
  • Random Allocation
  • Shoulder Pain / diagnosis
  • Shoulder Pain / epidemiology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Wheelchairs / statistics & numerical data*