The purpose of this study was to describe the upper body exercise capabilities of youth with spina bifida, which would permit comparison of their abilities to norms. Forty-two children with spina bifida age 7 to 18 years were tested for maximal handgrip strength, anaerobic arm-crank power output, and peak arm-crank oxygen uptake. Analysis of variance was used to compare age, gender, and level of disability differences within the total sample. This analysis indicated no significant effect of level of disability on any of the upper body exercise capacity measures. Significant gender and age effects were noted for grip strength and anaerobic and aerobic capabilities. The sample exhibited handgrip strength comparable to that of nondisabled youth but low anaerobic power and peak oxygen uptake values. Some individual subjects, however, had “normal” values for all tests suggesting that a lower level of participation in regular physical activity rather than spina bifida per se may be responsible for the generally lower physical capacity found in the total sample.
Coutts and McKenzie are with the School of Physical Education, University of British Columbia, 6081 University Blvd., Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z1. Loock and Armstrong are with the Department of Paediatrics, and Beauchamp is with the Department of Orthopaedics.