Psychological impact of sports activity in spinal cord injury patients

M C Gioia, A Cerasa, L Di Lucente, S Brunelli, V Castellano, M Traballesi
Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 2006, 16 (6): 412-6

OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether sports activity is associated with better psychological profiles in patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) and to evaluate the effect of demographic factors on psychological benefits.

METHODS: The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, Form X2 (STAI-X2), the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire for extraversion (EPQ-R (E)) and the questionnaire for depression (QD) were administered in a cross-sectional study of 137 males with spinal cord injury including 52 tetraplegics and 85 paraplegics. The subjects were divided into two groups according to sports activity participation (high frequency vs no sports participation). Moreover, multiple regression analysis was adopted to investigate the influence of demographic variables, such as age, educational level, occupational status and marital status, on psychological variables.

RESULTS: Analysis of variance revealed significant differences among the groups for anxiety (STAI-X2), extraversion (EPQ-R (E)) and depression (QD). In particular, SCI patients who did not practice sports showed higher anxiety and depression scores and lower extraversion scores than sports participants. In addition, with respect to the paraplegics, the tetraplegic group showed the lowest depression scores. Following multiple regression analysis, only the sports activity factor remained as an independent factor of anxiety scores.

CONCLUSION: These findings demonstrate that sports activity is associated with better psychological status in SCI patients, irrespective of tetraplegia and paraplegia, and that psychological benefits are not emphasized by demographic factors.

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