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22-04-2013 | Occupational medicine | Article

Sporting chance to get back to work for spinal cord injury patients


Free abstract

medwireNews: Research suggests that participation in organized sports may help people with chronic spinal cord injury get back into employment.

Leslie Morse (Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) and colleagues found that adults who had experienced a spinal cord injury at least 1 year before and who participated in organized sporting activities were 2.4-fold more likely to be employed than those who did not.

"Further studies are necessary to determine the causative nature of this association and how various factors related to sports participation may contribute," write the authors in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Morse and team recruited 149 individuals aged 22-65 years to take part in their cross sectional study to search for factors associated with employment after spinal cord injury. All the participants had experienced injury at least 1 year previously and none were ventilator dependent, had a tracheostomy, or other neuromuscular disease. Mobility was variable, with 58.4% having a motor complete and 41.6% a motor incomplete injury and 72.5% using a wheelchair.

Overall, 64 of the participants were employed and 85 were not. Following multivariate analysis adjusting for age, education, and body mass index, only participation in organized sport (33 participants) was significantly associated with employment status across the whole group, with the most popular sport being basketball (n=7), followed by tennis (n=6).

There was a significant association with age in people over the age of 55 years who were 70% less likely to be employed than younger individuals, but not in the group as a whole.

Notably, gender, duration of injury, wheelchair use, and participation in individually planned exercise were not significantly associated with employment status.

The researchers say that the lack of association with individually planned exercise is interesting and suggest that "factors such as increased socialization, informal peer mentoring, and the self-confidence established through team sport participation may, in fact, be the variables most closely associated with the likelihood of returning to work, as opposed to parameters related to individual physical fitness.

"This concept is further supported by the finding of this study that sports participation does not vary on the basis of age, BMI, duration of injury, or severity of injury, arguing against the notion that individual fitness may be the direct causal link between sport and employment," they conclude.

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter

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