2018 Research Summaries

Energy Expenditure in Adults with Down Syndrome

Adults with Down syndrome (DS) participate in less physical activity on average than adults without DS. Adults with DS also have gait issues that affect their walking patterns, as well as energy expenditure. In previous research, accelerometer, pedometers, and portable spirometers were used to predict average energy expenditure to better understand activity patterns in adults with DS. Our study used state-of-the-art Actigraph triaxial accelerometers to estimate energy expenditure for adults with DS against adults without DS. We believe that adults with DS have different energy expenditure levels, and that our study can better predict the difference in these levels, as well as the accuracy of the accelerometers used to measure them.

Using our I AM AN ATHLETE grant, our research team purchased accelerometer to help make proper data collection more seamless. These Actigraph accelerometers are triaxial, which measure movement in not only the frontal plane, but in the transverse and sagittal planes. Our adults with and without DS wore these accelerometers on their hips and wrists to get the most accurate data possible for different activity movements. These data points for energy expenditure will allow future researchers and practitioners to help provide better health evaluations, as well as provide more precise exercise programs for adults with DS. These accelerometers which were purchased with our grant were used in multiple locations in the golden triangle area in Mississippi to gain adequate data to support the research. Moving forward this research will lead to healthier adults with DS.

Floor Curling for Older Adults

Older adults are a population that face many challenges. As a whole they are less active, and more isolated than the rest of the population. This can lead to potential declines in physical and cognitive function as well as overall quality of life. This decrease in functionality leaves them vulnerable to illnesses and injuries that can result in disability. Adapted sports and inclusive recreation provide opportunities for older adults to maintain and improve their quality of life. Including sport and recreation in the treatment and care of older adults in assisted living facilities is important in providing holistic approach to health care. Participation in these activities encourages physical activity, and self determination, while preventing isolation and cognitive decline. It is necessary to understand how specific sports can serve as treatment for older adults, and how to effectively facilitate a program to produce results

Using our I AM AN ATHLETE grant, our team purchased an Indoor Floor Curling Set. The curling set was used at a Greensboro assisted living facility, where a six week floor curling league was conducted. Programming sessions were once a week for one hour. The participants ages ranged from 72-96, with an average age of 83. The curling set allowed the team to collect data on participant’s skill level, self determination, and quality of life.This was measured by a quality of life scale, interviews centered around self determination, and overall skill assessments to measure accuracy and strength. The team saw improvements in all three areas of testing. As a result participants felt more connected to those around them and the community they live in. Further research, with larger samples, will need to be done to understand how floor curling can improve and maintain the overall health of older adults.. The floor curling set will continue to provide the Greensboro community an adaptable and inclusive sport option at the Greensboro Sportsplex.

Sled Hockey is Born

Despite being affected by various pathologies that result in motor, sensory, and intellectual impairments, all individuals can be athletes through adaptive sports and are not exempt from experiencing physiological benefits with active participation in athletics. By engaging in adaptive sports, athletes not only learn to accept their physical disabilities, but can overcome their functional limitations to achieve self-actualization. Additionally, adaptive sport programs endorse mental and physical wellness by promoting avoidance of sedentary activities and allows the individual to engage with parents, coaches, and other disabled athletes. Children and adolescents with disabilities are often unable to participate in sports with their same-aged peers due to the existing barriers that limits the disabled athlete’s participation. Currently, most athletic programs lack the adaptive equipment to accommodate for persons of special needs. Sled hockey is a rapidly growing sport in, not only the United States, but worldwide. The purpose of the project was to identify psychological benefits of adaptive sled hockey participation in disabled athletes, both before and after sled hockey sessions. A secondary aim was to present the research findings at state and professional conferences to educate the public about the benefits of adaptive sports participation and hopefully, establish additional opportunities for disabled individuals to gain access to the world of adaptive sports.

Funds received from the I’m An Athlete grant was used for mileage reimbursement and allowed for the printing of colored copies of the Ottawa Mood Scale (OMS) for study participants to complete, both before and after sled hockey sessions. The OMS provided a comprehensive assessment of mood in the following five domains: arousal, mood, anger, worry, and stress. The OMS used visual depictions and descriptive terms to aid participants in assessing their mood as accurately as possible. After collecting and analyzing data, it was determined that the findings were not statistically significant to support a change in mood for the better or worse. The following are possible hypotheses that may explain the lack of significant findings: athletes being excited to participate before the start of sessions because they only play sled hockey once per week, participants get to see/play with their friends during sled hockey, and the short duration of the study (8 sessions over 8 weeks). Additionally, sled hockey athletes enjoyed being on the ice so much that they were sometimes reluctant to get off the ice at the conclusion of practice sessions. Future research in this area is needed to identify associations that exist between disabled athletes and active participation in an adaptive sport program. Determining the benefits of adaptive sports participation can lead to a greater demand for adaptive sports programs, thus satisfying the needs for disabled individuals that wish to participate in athletics.

Athletic Identity in Wheelchair Basketball

The purpose of the research was two-fold: 1) to determine the difference between athletic identity of wheelchair basketball athletes and disability, age, time participated in the sport; 2) to determine a relationship between participation in wheelchair basketball and athletic identity and quality of life of wheelchair basketball athletes.

There was a positive relationship between each team’s AI and QOL. The stronger the athletic identity the better quality of life each team indicated. Wheelchair basketball experience had a positive influence on the quality of the social life. Having a family member with them had a positive impact on the meaning of the experience for them. Majority of the wheelchair basketball players identified as being an athlete. However, the younger the athlete and college experience had more of an impact on the athlete identifying as an athlete. The older athletes stated that their quality of life was more enhanced due to physical fitness levels improving and socializing with friends and family. Most of the athletes in Division II perceived themselves as athletes as compared to Division III where the social aspect was more of influence on their participation.

The grant allowed both researcher and advisor to travel to one tournament to collect data on athletic identity of wheelchair basketball players in Division II and III, respectively. The research will be used for publication to further expand future research on wheelchair basketball athletes.

Wheelchair Basketball as Exercise

Youth with disabilities are significantly less physically active than those without disabilities, which can lead to multiple secondary health conditions. They also experience many barriers to becoming more active, primarily due to a lack of recreational and adapted sport programs. There are recommended standards for the amount of exercise needed to maintain health and youth with disabilities also need to meet these recommendations. Wheelchair basketball has become one solution to this problem and has become one of the more popular adapted sports for youth. As a result, it is important to know whether youth wheelchair basketball meets those standards in order to be worth the time and cost commitment.

Using our I AM AN ATHLETE grant, our research team purchased athletic shirts that contain electronics necessary to measure several different parameters of exercise. Our UAH Chargers youth wheelchair basketball team wore these shirts during several games of the 2017-2018 season. These unique shirts allowed us to collect data on how much exercise the team was performing during game play. Our results indicated that the players were performing exercise at the higher level of the recommended standards. This is wonderful news for the program seeing that our players are receiving important health benefits from their participation. However, formal wheelchair basketball games are not performed each week, but rather consist of 3-4 tournaments throughout the season. Now that we have the equipment to gather this type of data, we plan to study the amount of exercise performed during weekly practice sessions. Acquiring this information will allow us to adjust our practice sessions to ensure that our players are performing at the standards necessary for health and fitness benefits.