The impact of different cooling modalities on the physiological responses in firefighters during strenuous work performed in high environmental temperatures

David Barr, Thomas Reilly, Warren Gregson
European Journal of Applied Physiology 2011, 111 (6): 959-67
This study investigated the impact of ice vests and hand/forearm immersion on accelerating the physiological recovery between two bouts of strenuous exercise in the heat [mean (SD), 49.1(1.3)°C, RH 12 (1)]. On four occasions, eight firefighters completed two 20-min bouts of treadmill walking (5 km h, 7.5% gradient) while wearing standard firefighter protective clothing. Each bout was separated by a 15-min recovery period, during which one of four conditions were administered: ice vest (VEST), hand/forearm immersion (W), ice vest combined with hand/forearm immersion (VEST + W) and control (CON). Core temperature was significantly lower at the end of the recovery period in the VEST + W (37.97 ± 0.23°C) and W (37.96 ± 0.19°C) compared with the VEST (38.21 ± 0.12°C) and CON (38.29 ± 0.25°C) conditions and remained consistently lower throughout the second bout of exercise. Heart rate responses during the recovery period and bout 2 were similar between the VEST + W and W conditions which were significantly lower compared with the VEST and CON which did not differ from each other. Mean skin temperature was significantly lower at the start of bout 2 in the cooling conditions compared with CON; these differences reduced as exercise progressed. These findings demonstrate that hand/forearm immersion (~19°C) is more effective than ice vests in reducing the physiological strain when firefighters re-enter structural fires after short rest periods. Combining ice vests with hand/forearm immersion provides no additional benefit.

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