Acute exercise in individuals with spinal cord injury: friend or foe?

Individuals with spinal cord injury often have cardiovascular complications, such as fainting and dramatic increases in blood pressure. These conditions lead to a decrease in quality of life and significant treatment costs. Although these cardiovascular problems have been well documented, little is known about their causes following spinal cord injury. Jessica Scott’s research builds on her MSFHR-funded Master’s work that investigated whether a sudden drop in blood pressure following exercise predisposes people with high blood pressure to lose consciousness. While exercise can help reduce or reverse cardiovascular disease in people with spinal cord injury, the striking decrease in blood pressure that occurs after vigorous short-term exercise may in fact be dangerous. Loss of consciousness associated with physical exercise may be the first indication of a dangerous underlying cardiovascular condition. Scott is researching the connection between this sudden drop in blood pressure with the predisposition to lost consciousness following exercise in individuals with spinal cord injury. She aims for the research to contribute to development of an intervention program to improve post-exercise tolerance in individuals with spinal cord injury. The findings may also help in assessing post-exercise tolerance in other cardiovascular diseases such as chronic heart failure.