Acute Mountain Sickness in Disability and Adaptive Sports: Pilot Data from 2007 and 2008

Jennifer Tang, BS, Brad E. Dicianno, M.D., Rory A. Cooper, PhD.

Human Engineering Research Laboratories, Highland Drive VA Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA 15260 Dept. Rehab. Science &Technology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15261 Dept. PM&R, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, PA 15261


Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a common high altitude illness that affects people who have traveled over 2400m above sea level. We used the Lake Louise Survey (LLS) to diagnose AMS in a group of athletes with disabilities. A total of 122 eligible subjects were recruited in 2007 and 2008 at the National Veterans Winter Sports Clinic (NVWSC) in Snowmass, CO. We hypothesized that individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) would have a higher occurrence of AMS than other subject groups. While we did not find a significantly higher occurrence in this group, there was a trend toward higher scores, higher percentages of subjects diagnosed, and more severe scores in people with paraplegia and amputations. While central neurological injury may not be associated with higher occurrence rates of AMS, high physical activity levels such as downhill skiing in these those with paraplegia and amputations may explain the trend. Future work is needed to enroll more subjects, particularly people with amputations or tetraplegia. High occurrence rates across all subject groups point to the need to diagnose, treat, and prophylax for AMS in veterans at high altitude.


Acute mountain sickness, adaptive sports, high-altitude illnesses, Lake Louise Survey


We would like to thank Emily Teodorski for her help with the data entry and clinical coordination of this study, and Christian Niyonkuru for his help in the statistical analysis. The funding for this research was provided in part by the National Science Foundation Project EEC 0552351, Keystone Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Contact Information

Jennifer Tang, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15289, Phone: (718) 619-9484, E-mail: