Evaluating the quality of sport participation among paralympic and recreational athletes with a spinal cord injury


The quality of sport participation experiences may be important for improving well-being and health among persons with spinal cord injury (SCI). It is not yet known whether the competitive level of sport (i.e., Paralympic versus recreational) influences athletes' quality participation in sport. The purpose of this study was to compare the quality of sport participation (e.g., autonomy, belongingness) among Paralympic versus recreational athletes with SCI, and to determine whether these experiences were related to overall well-being. Forty-seven athletes with SCI (22 Paralympic; 27 recreational; Mage=38±11.8 years; Male=32, Female=15) responded to online surveys consisting of the Measures of Experiential Aspects of Participation (MEAP) and the Neuro-Quality of Life (QOL) SCI. Independent samples t-tests were conducted to compare quality of sport participation between groups. Paralympic athletes reported significantly better quality participation experiences in sport (p<0.001) than recreational athletes. Pearson's correlations were computed to assess the relationship between MEAP and Neuro-QOL scores. There was a significant, positive relationship between MEAP and Neuro-QOL scores (r=0.41, p=0.004). Results suggest that Paralympic athletes experience better quality participation in sport than recreational athletes with SCI. Quality of sport participation may be positively related to overall well-being, however, this relationship is not dependent on competitive level in sport. Future research should aim to understand the psychosocial mechanisms that contribute to positive quality experiences in sport among Paralympic athletes, and identify how to improve the quality of sport participation among recreational athletes with SCI.