Objective: To assess changes in physical capacity and its determinants in persons with a spinal cord injury.
Design: Prospective cohort study. Measurements at the start of active rehabilitation (t1), 3 months later (t2), at discharge (t3), and 1 year after discharge (t4).
Setting: Eight rehabilitation centers in The Netherlands.
Participants: A total of 186 subjects at t1 and 123 subjects at t4.
Interventions: Not applicable.
Main outcome measures: Peak aerobic power output (POpeak), peak oxygen uptake (V(O2)peak), muscle strength of the upper extremity (manual muscle test, handheld dynamometry), and respiratory function (forced expiratory flow per second, forced vital capacity).
Results: Random coefficient analysis demonstrated that the POpeak, V(O2)peak, strength, and respiratory function improved during inpatient rehabilitation, and that V(O2)peak, strength, and respiratory function continued to improve after discharge. Age, sex, and level and completeness of lesion were determinants of the change in components of physical capacity.
Conclusions: Physical capacity improves during inpatient rehabilitation, and some components continue to improve after discharge. Subpopulations have a different level of (change in) physical capacity. The components of physical capacity are related; intervention studies are needed to confirm whether training 1 component could improve another component.