Is Sleep Disordered Breathing Confounding Rehabilitation Outcomes in Spinal Cord Injury Research?

American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, Interdisciplinary Special Interest Group, Spinal Cord Injury Physical Function and Wellness Task Force

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


The purpose of this article is to highlight the importance of considering sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) as a potential confounder to rehabilitation research interventions in spinal cord injury (SCI). SDB is highly prevalent in SCI, with increased prevalence in individuals with higher and more severe lesions, and the criterion standard treatment with continuous positive airway pressure remains problematic. Despite its high prevalence, SDB is often untested and untreated in individuals with SCI. In individuals without SCI, SDB is known to negatively affect physical function and many of the physiological systems that negatively affect physical rehabilitation in SCI. Thus, owing to the high prevalence, under testing, low treatment adherence, and known negative effect on the physical function, it is contended that underdiagnosed SDB in SCI may be confounding physical rehabilitation research studies in individuals with SCI. Studies investigating the effect of treating SDB and its effect on physical rehabilitation in SCI were unable to be located. Thus, studies investigating the likely integrated relationship among physical rehabilitation, SDB, and proper treatment of SDB in SCI are needed. Owing to rapid growth in both sleep medicine and physical rehabilitation intervention research in SCI, the authors contend it is the appropriate time to begin the conversations and collaborations between these fields. We discuss a general overview of SDB and physical training modalities, as well as how SDB could be affecting these studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Rehabilitation
  • Sleep apnea syndromes
  • Spinal cord injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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