Skin Health on Our Team: Prevention of Pressure Ulcers in Athletic Individuals with Spinal Cord Injuries




Garner, Becky
Spohr, Stephanie
Bhavsar, Margi
Kitzman-Ulrich, Heather


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OBJECTIVE: Focus group data were collected as a means to gather participant attitudes, beliefs, feelings and opinions in regards to informing the design of a pressure ulcer prevention study. BACKGROUND: Little research has been done on pressure ulcers (PU) in healthy, active individuals with spinal cord injuries (SCI). Athletes, in particular, may be at greater risk for developing PUs due to prolonged vigorous movement. Despite this risk only 30.8% of all wheelchair athletes seek medical assistance for PUs. METHODS: Participants were recruited following collegiate sports practices to participate in a focus group that assessed attitudes, beliefs, and feelings about PU prevention and intervention delivery preferences. Classic content analysis methods were used to determine frequencies of important themes. Basic demographics, sports involvement, and previous PU history were also collected. RESULTS: Participants were male (N=8) with a mean age of 23 (SD) years; Caucasian (55%), and Hispanic/Latino (33%). All participants were actively competing in various wheelchair sports. Forty-four percent had a history of PUs but only 28% sought medical treatment. Focus group themes included: awareness, risk, prevention, and program solutions. Within PU awareness, 72% of comments concerned intrapersonal topics (e.g., beliefs, attitudes) followed by participants’ comments on past experiences (15%). Participants expressed a sense of isolation with PU occurrence resulting in frustration and a lack of ability to face the challenges coinciding with PUs. CONCLUSIONS: This group of athletes with SCI believes skin health is crucial for overall health, ability to participate in sports, and quality of life. Although PU occurrence may not necessarily be due to laziness or lack of attention, that impression seems to be general consensus of other team members and society. Future recommendations include providing athletes with direct access to a wound care specialist, while interventions should emphasize best practices in compliance, motivation, and development of protective lifestyle behaviors.