European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 114, Issue 11, pp 2353–2367 | Cite as

The effect of various cold-water immersion protocols on exercise-induced inflammatory response and functional recovery from high-intensity sprint exercise

  • Gillian E. White
  • Shawn G. Rhind
  • Greg D. Wells
Original Article



The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of different cold-water immersion (CWI) protocols on the inflammatory response to and functional recovery from high-intensity exercise.


Eight healthy recreationally active males completed five trials of a high-intensity intermittent sprint protocol followed by a randomly assigned recovery condition: 1 of 4 CWI protocols (CWI-10 min × 20 °C, CWI-30 min × 20 °C, CWI-10 min × 10 °C, or CWI-30 min × 10 °C) versus passive rest. Circulating mediators of the inflammatory response were measured from EDTA plasma taken pre-exercise (baseline), immediately post-exercise, and at 2, 24, and 48 h post-exercise. Ratings of perceived soreness and impairment were noted on a 10-pt Likert scale, and squat jump and drop jump were performed at these time points.


IL-6, IL-8, and MPO increased significantly from baseline immediately post-exercise in all conditions. IL-6 remained elevated from baseline at 2 h in the CWI-30 min × 20 °C, CWI-10 min × 10 °C, and CWI-30 min × 10 °C conditions, while further increases were observed for IL-8 and MPO in the CWI-30 min × 20 °C and CWI-30 min × 10 °C conditions. Squat jump and drop jump height were significantly lower in all conditions immediately post-exercise and at 2 h. Drop jump remained below baseline at 24 and 48 h in the CON and CWI-10 min × 20 °C conditions only, while squat jump height returned to baseline in all conditions.


Cold-water immersion appears to facilitate restoration of muscle performance in a stretch–shortening cycle, but not concentric power. These changes do not appear to be related to inflammatory modulation. CWI protocols of excessive duration may actually exacerbate the concentration of cytokines in circulation post-exercise; however, the origin of the circulating cytokines is not necessarily skeletal muscle.


Exercise-induced inflammation Recovery Cryotherapy Cytokines Skeletal muscle stress 


1 h

1 hour

2 h

2 hour

24 h

24 hour

48 h

48 hour


Cold-water immersion


Granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor


Interferon gamma


Interleukin 1 beta


Interleukin 6


Interleukin 8


Interleukin 10

IL-12 p70

Interleukin 12 p70








Stretch-shortening cycle


Tumor necrosis factor alpha



We would like to acknowledge Research Programs in Applied Sport Sciences for funding this study, iCool Sport Australia and the Canadian Sport Institute of Ontario for providing equipment, and Defence Research and Development Canada for providing means for immunological analyses.

Conflict of interest

The authors report no potential conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gillian E. White
    • 1
  • Shawn G. Rhind
    • 2
  • Greg D. Wells
    • 3
  1. 1.Graduate Department of Exercise SciencesUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Defence Research and Development Canada; Toronto Research CentreTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical EducationUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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