Effect of a cooling vest on core temperature in athletes with and without spinal cord injury

Top Spinal Cord Inj Rehabil. 2014 Winter;20(1):70-80. doi: 10.1310/sci2001-70.


Background: It is well accepted that persons with spinal cord injury (SCI) have impaired ability to regulate core temperature due to impaired vasomotor and sudomotor activity below their level of injury. Impaired heat dissipation puts SCI athletes at great risk of exercise-induced hyperthermia (EIH) (>37.8°C). There is minimal evidence for efficacy of any specific cooling method in SCI athletes in a thermoneutral sport-specific setting.

Objective: To evaluate the extent of EIH in persons with and without SCI and subsequently examine the effect of a cooling vest to attenuate rise in core body temperature (Tc).

Methods: SCI (n = 17) and able-bodied (AB; n = 19) athletes participated in a 60-minute intermittent sprinting exercise in a thermoneutral (21.1°C-23.9°C) environment. Participants were separated according to their level of injury: tetraplegia defined as above T1 (TP; n = 6), high paraplegia defined as T5 through T1 (HP; n = 5), low paraplegia defined as T6 and below (LP; n = 6), and AB (n = 19). Tc was recorded at 15-minute intervals using an ingestible thermometer pill. This protocol was completed with a cooling vest (V) and without a cooling vest (NV).

Results: All SCI and most AB athletes experienced EIH. After 60 minutes, Tc of TP athletes was significantly increased compared to HP (P = .03) and AB athletes (P = .007). There was no significant effect of the vest on Tc over time for any group.

Conclusions: TP athletes have the highest risk of exercise-induced hyperthermia. The cooling vest does not significantly attenuate rise in Tc in SCI or AB athletes.

Keywords: body temperature; hyperthermia; spinal cord injury; thermoregulation.