The 2012 London Paralympics are coming up, with a challenge to the blood pressure control of those with spinal cord injuries!
Unstable blood pressure control is a challenge and a concern to the general spinal cord-injured population. Those with injuries located in the cervical and upper thoracic areas have a disrupted sympathetic nervous system, which affects well-integrated physiological responses to exercise – including homeostatic blood pressure and heart rate. These individuals may also experience autonomic dysreflexia, a dramatic increase in blood pressure, which if left untreated can lead to stroke, heart attack or even death.
In spinal cord-injured Paralympic athletes there are especially two concerns related to autonomic dysreflexia:
- Those who are not aware that this is a risk
- The athletes who are aware of autonomic blood pressure “boosts,” and use it as a competitive advantage.
Spinal cord injury is usually accompanied by low arterial blood pressure, and some athletes will drink extra and refrain from voiding prior to competition. This will result in a “boost” in blood pressure and give them the extra energy to compete at a higher level. This is, of course, prohibited at the Olympics.
To create awareness and prevention of autonomic dysreflexia Dr. Krassioukov, a Canadian researcher has received funding from the Craig Neilsen Foundation to run a cardiovascular health autonomic clinic in London’s Olympic Village.
Written by Berit Brurok, PhD Candidate at CERG.