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A Journal on Sports Medicine

Official Journal of the Italian Sports Medicine Federation
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Medicina dello Sport 1999 March;52(1):9-20

language: Italian

Physical evaluation of mentally disabled subjects. Laboratory tests and heart rate measurements during running competitions

Sarchi P. 1, Sprenger C. 1, Mauro F. 2, Veicsteinas A. 3

1 Centro di Medicina dello Sport, Fondazione Don C. Gnocchi, IRCCS, Milano;
2 Istituto di Educazione Fisica della Lombardia, ISEF, Milano;
3 ECUS Centro Interuniversitario (Università di Brescia, Trento e Verona) Europeo per le Scienze Sportive, Rovereto


Mentally disabled subjects active in various sports are considered in Italy as “not competitive” by law, on the basis that their effort should be submaximal even during competitions. As few literature is available on this topic, aim of our work was to verify if the physical exertion during competition of subjects with mental retardation is effectively submaximal, as generally supposed. To this aim, heart rate was continuosly measured before, during and after athletic and soccer competitions in 10 subjects (9 oligophrenics; 1 Down sindrome).
During competition-field recordings, peak heart rates were near, and in some case higher, to the theoretical maximal heart rate value, which suggests a high physical and emotional involvement of these subjects. During laboratory test, peak oxygen uptake and physical fitness variables were lower than those obtained in healty controls.
In conclusion, unlike to the common opinion, competition effort in mentally disabled people is maximal. Thus these subjects have to the properly trained in order to increase their fitness level. Moreover we suggest to evaluate even the mentally disabled people with a more accurate medical examination, as required by law for healty subjects involved in competitive sports.

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