Bioenergetics and Biomechanics of Handcycling at Submaximal Speeds in Athletes with a Spinal Cord Injury

Gabriela Fischer, Pedro Figueiredo, Luca Paolo Ardigò

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: This study aimed at comparing bioenergetics and biomechanical parameters between athletes with tetraplegia and paraplegia riding race handbikes at submaximal speeds in ecological conditions. Methods: Five athletes with tetraplegia (C6-T1, 43 ± 6 yrs, 63 ± 14 kg) and 12 athletes with paraplegia (T4-S5, 44 ± 7 yrs, 72 ± 12 kg) rode their handbikes at submaximal speeds under metabolic measurements. A deceleration method (coasting down) was applied to calculate the rolling resistance and frontal picture of each participant was taken to calculate air resistance. The net overall Mechanical Efficiency (Eff) was calculated by dividing external mechanical work to the corresponding Metabolic Power. Results: Athletes with tetraplegia reached a lower aerobic speed (4.7 ± 0.6 m s-1vs. 7.1 ± 0.9 m s-1, P = 0.001) and Mechanical Power (54 ± 15 W vs. 111 ± 25 W, P = 0.001) compared with athletes with paraplegia. The metabolic cost was around 1 J kg-1m-1for both groups. The Eff values (17 ± 2% vs. 19 ± 3%, P = 0.262) suggested that the handbike is an efficient assisted locomotion device. Conclusion: Handbikers with tetraplegia showed lower aerobic performances but a similar metabolic cost compared with handbikers with paraplegia at submaximal speeds in ecological conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number998
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • handbike
  • locomotion
  • paralympic classification
  • paralympic sport
  • performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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