Shoulder Pain: A Comparison of Wheelchair Athletes and Nonathletic Wheelchair Users

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The purpose of this study was to directly compare the onset and prevalence of shoulder pain in athletic and nonathletic wheelchair users.


A questionnaire was distributed to athletic and nonathletic wheelchair-dependent populations. This inquired about presence and duration of shoulder pain, age of subject, level of injury, duration of time since injury, wheelchair use, involvement in sports, and training habits. A total of 257 subjects were involved in the study.


The odds of having shoulder pain were twice as high among nonathletes as they were among athletes. This finding represents a significant difference over and above age differences, differences in years spent in a wheelchair, and differences in level of spinal cord injury. Athletes also have an average of 12 yr free of shoulder pain after becoming wheelchair bound, whereas nonathletes have only 8 yr.


Promotion of active exercise for wheelchair users is encouraged to decrease shoulder pain, resulting in more functional, pain-free years.

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