In force Publication date 01 Jan 12

Nutritional supplement habits and perceptions of athletes with a disability

Principal investigator
V. Tolfrey
T. Graham
C. Perret
B. Smith
J. Crosland
R. Maughan
S. Shirreffs
United Kingdom, Switzerland
Loughborough University , Institute of Sports Medicine, Swiss Paraplegic Centre.
Year approved
Attitudes toward doping, Para-athletes

Project description


To date, most research into nutritional supplements concentrated on able-bodied athletes. The study helped identify this gap and to examine the perceptions of disabled athletes and the sources of information about nutritional supplements they use when consuming them. The objective of this research was to provide a picture of nutritional supplements consumption among disabled athletes and develop and improve existing recommendations in respect to the use of nutritional supplements by athletes with disabilities.



The study follows a three-stage cross-sectional research design. The researchers developed a questionnaire and administered it at a sporting event or a training camp to three hundred and ninety-nine (399) athletes, of which two hundred and fifty-five (255) were elite, one hundred and forty-four (144) were nonelite, one hundred and three (103) were female, and two hundred and ninety-six (296) were male. The sample was mainly composed of sportspeople competing in wheelchair court sports, athletics, sitting volleyball, and cycling and was collected in twenty-one (21) countries. The resulting data was examined using chi-squared test. 



The study has shown that fifty-eight (58) percent of participants used nutritional supplements over the period of six months and forty-one (41) percent of them followed the instructions on the label to determine the appropriate dosage. Partly because of the instructions aimed at able-bodied athletes, nine (9) percent experienced an adverse effect.

The study has also found that the participating athletes mentioned nutritionists and dietitians as the most trusted source of information regarding supplements; however, most of the supplements were procured from health stores, the internet, or supermarkets. The participants mentioned exercise recovery, supporting the immune system, and providing energy as the reasons for using them. 

Crucially for its impact, fifty-two (52) percent of the participants in the study solicited more information about nutritional supplements, pointing to the fact that more education regarding dosage and sourcing could be beneficial.  

Significance for Clean Sport

The study delves into an underexplored area of research into nutritional supplements, i.e., the effect of their use by athletes with disabilities. Given that the findings have shown the patterns of use of nutritional supplements by athletes with impairments, the study can inform educational activities, e.g., through integrating information specific to different disabilities to help preventing adverse effects of using nutritional supplements. It can also help guide future research into the use of specific nutritional supplements, their negative effects, and their effectiveness among athletes with diverse disabilities, including spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, amputations, or multiple sclerosis.


Related Publications

Nutritional Supplement Habits of Athletes With an Impairment and Their Sources of Information



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