Jan. 20 , 2006

Largest spinal injury study recruits participants

Hamilton, ON - Researchers are looking for 800 Ontarians with spinal cord injuries for a landmark study to determine whether physical activity is related to better health and quality of life. It will be the largest study of its kind, and could change the treatment currently given to those with such injuries.


Kathleen Martin Ginis, associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster University, and the lead investigator in the Study of Health and Activity in People with Spinal Cord Injury (SHAPE-SCI) said people with spinal cord injuries are at heightened risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity as well as various secondary health complications such as chronic pain, skin ulcers, and urinary tract infections. The key to preventing these problems, she believes, lies in increasing a person’s physical activity.

 “Physical activity could help a person with spinal cord injury live a longer, healthier life,” says Martin Ginis. “Prevention of these various health problems would also reduce health care costs.” She says it costs from $1.25-million to $25-million to treat one person with spinal cord injury over a lifetime. More than 40,000 Canadians, mostly men, have spinal cord injuries, and 1,100 new cases are added each year.


Martin Ginis hopes news of her study will prompt those with spinal cord injuries to contact her. The study, which will be conducted by phone, is open to quadriplegics and paraplegics over the age of 18. Current physical activity is not a factor in participating in the study. Participants will be followed over an 18-month period to determine how their physical activity levels relate to their physical and psychological health, including their risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.


Partnering with McMaster University on the study is Queen’s University (St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital), University of Western Ontario (Parkwood Hospital), and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (Lyndhurst Centre). The study is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.


McMaster University, a world-renowned, research-intensive university, fosters a culture of innovation, and a commitment to discovery and learning in teaching, research and scholarship. Based in Hamilton, the University, one of only four Canadian universities to be listed on the Top 100 universities in the world, has a student population of more than 23,000, and an alumni population of more than 115,000 in 128 countries.