The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2288-14-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
MH, TT, and ZZ defined the models and interpreted the results. MH and ZZ performed the analyses and prepared the manuscript. PP and PM designed the study and collected the data, obtained research approval, and contributed to the writing of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Borg developed scales for rating pain and perceived exertion in adults that have also been used in pediatric populations. Models describing functional relationships between perceived exertion and work capacity have not been studied in children. We compared different models and their fits to individual trajectories and assessed the variability in these trajectories.
Ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) were collected from 79 children. Progressive cycle ergonometric testing was performed to maximal work capacity with test duration ranging from 6‐ 12 minutes. Ratings were obtained during each 1‐minute increment. Work was normalized to individual maximal work capacity (Wmax). A delay was defined as the fraction of Wmax at which point an increase in ratings of leg fatigue occurred. Such a delay term allows the characterization of trajectories for children whose ratings were initially constant with increasing work. Two models were considered, a delay model and a power model that is commonly used to analyze Borg ratings. Individual model fit was assessed with root mean squared error (RMSE). Functional clustering algorithms were used to identify patterns.
Leg tiredness developed quickly for some children while for others there was a delay before an in‐ creased ratings of leg exertion occurred with increasing work. Models for individual trajectories with the smallest RMSE included a delay and a quadratic term (quadratic‐delay model), or a power function and a delay term (power‐delay model) compared to a simple power function. The median delay was 40% Wmax (interquartile range (IQR): 26‐49%) in a quadratic‐delay model, while the median exponent was 1.03 (IQR: 0.83‐1.78) in a power‐delay model. Nine clusters were identified showing linear or quadratic patterns with or without a delay. Cluster membership did not depend on age, gender or diagnosis.
Children and adolescents vary widely in their capacity to rate their perceptions and exhibit different functional relationships between ratings of perceived exertion and work capacity normalized across individuals. Models including a delay term, a linear component, or a power function can describe these individual trajectories of perceived leg exertion during incremental exercise to voluntary exhaustion.
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