Additional Considerations for Athletes with Impairments
Determining energy needs for athletes with disabilities can pose problems for the dietitian. Predictive equations used to estimate energy needs are based off of data from free-living, able-bodied, non-athletic individuals. Using these equations to determine energy needs for athletes with impairments can result in severe overestimations. It is important to take into consideration the lowered energy needs of athletes with an SCI due to decreased metabolically active muscle mass. Other disabilities that can result in lowered energy expenditure include cerebral palsy, amputations and any other disability that may impair physical function. Additional barriers that dietitians or sports medicine teams may encounter when working with athletes with a disability include food aversions, food allergies/intolerances, constipation, autonomic dysreflexia, urinary tract infections, pressure ulcers and food/drug interactions. When working with any type of athlete, it is important to take a personalized approach; get to know the athlete, their sport and their disability.
For more information on working with athletes with disabilities and specific nutrient needs for all types of sports and supplement recommendations, refer to Dr. Elizabeth Broad’s book Sports Nutrition for Paralympic Athletes and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Sports Nutrition Care Manual.