Affiliations: Stim XDP Research Group, Institute for Sport and Health, Newstead, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland | Physiotherapy Department, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Abstract: Background: People with spinal cord injury (SCI) are exposed to the development of comorbidities secondary to a decreased ability to exercise and pathological complications. Aerobic exercise has been advocated as a means of preventing the development of these illnesses. Previous research has indicated that functional electrical stimulation (FES) provides an appropriate aerobic stimulus in an SCI population to provide cardiovascular fitness gains. However, FES devices are time consuming for both clients and medical staff in a rehabilitation and home setting with devices often expensive. Our research group have developed a novel neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) system which may provide an alternative to FES and elicit a similar response. Methods: A 40 year old male with a T6 incomplete SCI, undertook 6 weeks of NMES training for one hour, five days per week. Pre and post intervention measures include a treadmill VO2 peak test, a DXA scan and subjective feedback regarding the NMES device and training stimulus. Results: Improvements in VO2 peak, heart rate and exercise tolerance were observed with minor decreases in total body fat mass. The participant reported that the NMES was an acceptable form of cardiovascular training. Conclusion: Our pilot case study has indicated that our NMES system is capable of eliciting an aerobic training effect in people with SCI, which could potentially improve their cardiovascular fitness. Further study with a greater number of participants is warranted in this population using a similar training program.