Water immersion in the treatment of exertional hyperthermia: physical determinants

Brian J Friesen, Mike R Carter, Martin P Poirier, Glen P Kenny
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2014, 46 (9): 1727-35

PURPOSE: We examined the effect of differences in body surface area-to-lean body mass ratio (AD/LBM) on core temperature cooling rates during cold water immersion (CWI, 2°C) and temperate water immersion (TWI, 26°C) after exercise-induced hyperthermia.

METHODS: Twenty male participants were divided into two groups: high (315.6 ± 7.9 cm·kg, n = 10) and low (275.6 ± 8.6 cm·kg, n = 10) AD/LBM. On two separate occasions, participants ran on a treadmill in the heat (40.0°C, 20% relative humidity) wearing an impermeable rain suit until rectal temperature reached 40.0°C. After exercise, participants were immersed up to the nipples (arms remained out of the water) in either a CWI (2°C) or a TWI (26°C) circulated water bath until rectal temperature returned to 37.5°C.

RESULTS: Overall rectal cooling rates were significantly different between experimental groups (high vs low AD/LBM, P = 0.005) and between immersion conditions (CWI vs TWI, P < 0.001). Individuals with a high AD/LBM had an approximately 1.7-fold greater overall rectal cooling rate relative to those with low AD/LBM during both CWI (high: 0.27°C·min ± 0.10°C·min vs low: 0.16°C·min ± 0.10°C·min) and TWI (high: 0.10°C·min ± 0.05°C·min vs low: 0.06°C·min ± 0.02°C·min). Further, the overall rectal cooling rates during CWI were approximately 2.7-fold greater than during TWI for both the high (CWI: 0.27°C·min ± 0.10°C·min vs TWI: 0.10°C·min ± 0.05°C·min) and the low (CWI: 0.16°C·min ± 0.10°C·min vs TWI: 0.06°C·min ± 0.02°C·min) AD/LBM groups.

CONCLUSION: We show that individuals with a low AD/LBM have a reduced rectal cooling rate and take longer to cool than those with a high AD/LBM during both CWI and TWI. However, CWI provides the most effective cooling treatment irrespective of physical differences.

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