European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 114, Issue 8, pp 1635–1643 | Cite as

Blood lactate and ventilatory thresholds in wheelchair athletes with tetraplegia and paraplegia

  • C. A. Leicht
  • K. E. Griggs
  • J. Lavin
  • K. Tolfrey
  • V. L. Goosey-TolfreyEmail author
Original Article



The purpose of this study was to analyse the influence of spinal cord injury level on blood lactate (BLa) and ventilatory thresholds.


Ten athletes with tetraplegia (TETRA) and nine athletes with paraplegia (PARA) performed a graded wheelchair propulsion treadmill exercise step test to exhaustion. The aerobic and anaerobic BLa thresholds, the ventilatory threshold and the respiratory compensation point (RCP) were determined.


The BLa thresholds were determined in 34 of 38 cases, ventilatory thresholds and RCPs in 31 of 38 cases. The anaerobic BLa threshold (76 ± 7 % \(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{{ 2 {\text{peak}}}}\)) and the RCP (77 ± 8 % \(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{{ 2 {\text{peak}}}}\)) did not differ significantly from each other (P = 0.92), with a coefficient of variation of 4.8 ± 3.4 % between thresholds. All other thresholds differed significantly from each other (P < 0.05). Thresholds expressed as the percentage of peak oxygen uptake did not differ between TETRA and PARA (P > 0.05) despite altered breathing in TETRA, which included a higher ventilatory equivalent for oxygen and a lower tidal volume.


Measuring BLa leads to a higher threshold determination rate compared with ventilatory data and the anaerobic BLa threshold can be used to predict the RCP. The altered breathing in TETRA does not seem to have a pronounced effect on the ventilatory threshold or the RCP.


Spinal cord injury Exercise prescription Wheelchair rugby Wheelchair basketball Ventilatory equivalent Wheelchair exercise 





Analysis of variance


Blood lactate


Coefficient of variation


Effect size


Graded exercise test to exhaustion


Individuals with paraplegia


Respiratory compensation point


Rating of perceived exertion


Individuals with tetraplegia


Propulsion velocity

\(\dot{V}{\text{CO}}_{ 2}\)

CO2 production

\({{{\dot{{V}}{\text{CO}}_{ 2}}^{2} } \mathord{\left/ {\vphantom {{\dot{V}{\text{CO}}_{ 2}^{2} } {\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{ 2} - \dot{V}{\text{CO}}_{ 2} }}} \right. \kern-0pt} {\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{ 2} - \dot{V}{\text{CO}}_{ 2} }}\)

Excess production of CO2


Total ventilation

\({{\dot{V}{\text{E}}} \mathord{\left/ {\vphantom {{\dot{V}{\text{E}}} {\dot{V}{\text{CO}}_{ 2} }}} \right. \kern-0pt} {\dot{V}{\text{CO}}_{ 2} }}\)

Ventilatory equivalent for CO2

\({{\dot{V}{\text{E}}} \mathord{\left/ {\vphantom {{\dot{V}{\text{E}}} {\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{ 2} }}} \right. \kern-0pt} {\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{ 2} }}\)

Ventilatory equivalent for oxygen

\(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{ 2}\)

Oxygen uptake

\(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{{ 2 {\text{max}}}}\)

Maximum oxygen consumption


Peak oxygen uptake


Ventilatory threshold

95 % CI

95 % confidence interval of the differences



We thank the Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby Ltd. and British Wheelchair Basketball for their support. Appreciation is extended to all sportsmen who volunteered to participate in this study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standard

The authors declare that the conducted experiments comply with the current laws of the country in which they were performed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. A. Leicht
    • 1
  • K. E. Griggs
    • 1
  • J. Lavin
    • 1
  • K. Tolfrey
    • 1
  • V. L. Goosey-Tolfrey
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Sport, Exercise, and Health Sciences, The Peter Harrison Centre for Disability SportLoughborough UniversityLoughboroughUK

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