Objective: To investigate the effects of compression socks worn during exercise on performance and physiological responses in elite wheelchair rugby athletes. Design: In a non-blinded randomised crossover design, participants completed two exercise trials (4×8 min bouts of submaximal exercise, each finishing with a timed maximal sprint) separated by 24 hr, with or without compression socks. Setting: National Sports Training Centre, Queensland, Australia. Participants: Ten national representative male wheelchair rugby athletes with cervical spinal cord injuries volunteered to participate. Interventions: Participants wore medical grade compression socks on both legs during the exercise task (COMP), and during the control trial no compression was worn (CON). Outcome Measures: The efficacy of the compression socks was determined by assessments of limb blood flow, core body temperature, heart rate, and ratings of perceived exertion, perceived thermal strain, and physical performance. Results: While no significant differences between conditions were observed for maximal sprint time, average lap time was better maintained in COMP compared to CON (p <0.05). Lower limb blood flow increased from pre- to post-exercise by the same magnitude in both conditions (COMP: 2.51±2.34; CON: 2.20±1.85 ml.100ml.-1min-1), whereas there was a greater increase in upper limb blood flow pre- to post-exercise in COMP (10.77±8.24 ml.100ml.-1min-1) compared to CON (6.21±5.73 ml.100ml.-1min-1; p <0.05). Conclusion: These findings indicate that compression socks worn during exercise is an effective intervention for maintaining submaximal performance during wheelchair exercise, and this performance benefit may be associated with an augmentation of upper limb blood flow.
Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine / Vol. 39, No. 2, pp.206-211