The Nutritional Knowledge and Dietary Practices of Athletes with Spinal Cord Injuries
At present there is only limited research on the nutrition knowledge and dietary practices of athletes with a disability. The physiological differences in athletes with disabilities combined with the internal demands and external pressures during sporting events, predispose them to medical and health problems. The growing participation of athletes with disabilities in sporting events such as the Paralympic Games denotes the need for nutrition guidelines specific for these athletes to be produced. Most elite able-bodied athletes have access to nutritional support and education, however, such resources are more difficult for those with disabilities to utilise. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the basic and sports nutrition knowledge, dietary practices and nutrition education sources of athletes with spinal cord injuries (SCI) compared with their able-bodied (AB) counterparts, using a self-developed questionnaire. Twenty-nine athletes (11 AB, 18 SCI) completed the questionnaire. Overall, there was no significant difference in the nutritional knowledge between athletes with SCI and AB athletes (p=0.4709). However, the results from this study did find potential gaps in nutrition knowledge for both groups. In particular, both groups showed poor knowledge for the role of macronutrients in the body. For example, 36% AB and 56% SCI incorrectly agreed that the more protein you consume, the more muscle you build. There was also a significant difference (p=0.029) between the groups perceived body weight as 27% AB and 67% SCI consider themselves as above their ideal weight. Only 20% of SCI athletes consider their weight as “ideal” compared with 64% of AB athletes. These results indicate that athletes with SCI are more likely to struggle with their weight than AB athletes. Both groups indicated that an individual session with a sports nutritionist or dietitian is the preferred source of nutrition information, although, SCI athletes also reported the internet and interactive website programs to be another good source of nutrition information. More research is needed to assess the overall knowledge of disabled athletes in comparison to their able-bodied counterparts as well as the most appropriate, and effective methods of education for this group.
Advisor: Black, Katherine
Degree Name: Master of Dietetics
Degree Discipline: Human Nutrition
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Nutrition; Knowledge; Spinal; Cord; Injury; Athletes
Research Type: Thesis