Purpose: This study quantified the influence of (i) the assistive pole, (ii) seat configuration, and (iii) upper-body and trunk strength, on seated throwing performance in athletes with a spinal cord injury. Methods: Ten Paralympic athletes competing in wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball or athletics (seated throws) participated in two randomised sessions; seated throwing and strength tests. Participants threw a club from a custom-built throwing chair, with and without a pole. 3D kinematic data were collected (150 Hz) for both conditions using standardised and self-selected seat configurations. Dominant and non-dominant grip strength was measured using a dynamometer and upper-body and trunk strength was measured using isometric contractions against a load cell. Results: Seated throwing with an assistive pole resulted in significantly higher hand speed at release compared to throwing without an assistive pole (pole=6.0±1.5 m/s and no-pole=5.3±1.5 m/s; p=0.02). There was no significant difference in hand speed at release between standardised and self-selected seating configurations during seated throwing with or without an assistive pole. Grip strength (r=0.59-0.77), push/pull synergy (r=0.81-0.84) and trunk flexion (r=0.50-0.58) strength measures showed large and significant correlations with hand speed at release during seated throwing with and without an assistive pole. Conclusions: This study has demonstrated the importance of the pole for spinal cord injured athletes in seated throwing, and has defined the relationship between strength and seated throwing performance allowing us to better understand the activity of seated throws and to provide measures for assessing strength that may be valid for evidence-based classification.
International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance / Vol. Article in press