Interleukin-6 responses to water immersion therapy after acute exercise heat stress: A pilot investigation

Document Type

Journal Article


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Exercise and Health Sciences




This article was originally published as: Lee, E., Watson, G. , Casa, D., Armstrong, L., Kraemer, W., Vingren, J., Spiering, B., & Maresh, C. (2012). Interleukin-6 responses to water immersion therapy after acute exercise heat stress: A pilot investigation. Journal of Athletic Training, 47(6), 655-663. Original article available here


Context: Cold-water immersion is the criterion standard for treatment of exertional heat illness. Cryotherapy and water immersion also have been explored as ergogenic or recovery aids. The kinetics of inflammatory markers, such as interleukin-6 (IL-6), during cold-water immersion have not been characterized. Objective: To characterize serum IL-6 responses to water immersion at 2 temperatures and, therefore, to initiate further research into the multidimensional benefits of immersion and the evidence-based selection of specific, optimal immersion conditions by athletic trainers. Design: Controlled laboratory study. Setting: Human performance laboratory Patients or Other Participants: Eight college-aged men (age = 22 ± 3 years, height = 1.76 ± 0.08 m, mass = 77.14 ± 9.77 kg, body fat = 10% ± 3%, and maximal oxygen consumption = 50.48 ± 4.75 mL·kg -1·min-1). Main Outcome Measures: Participants were assigned randomly to receive either cold (11.70°C ± 2.02°C, n = 4) or warm (23.50°C ± 1.00°C, n = 4) water-bath conditions after exercise in the heat (temperature = 37°C, relative humidity = 52%) for 90 minutes or until volitional cessation. Results: Whole-body cooling rates were greater in the cold water-bath condition for the first ± minutes of water immersion, but during the 90-minute, postexercise recovery, participants in the warm and cold water-bath conditions experienced similar overall whole-body cooling. Heart rate responses were similar for both groups. Participants in the cold water-bath condition experienced an overall slight increase (30.54% ± 77.37%) in IL-6 concentration, and participants in the warm water-bath condition experienced an overall decrease (-69.76% ± 15.23%). Conclusions: We have provided seed evidence that coldwater immersion is related to subtle IL-6 increases from postexercise values and that warmer water-bath temperatures might dampen this increase. Further research will elucidate any anti-inflammatory benefit associated with water-immersion treatment and possible multidimensional uses of cooling therapies.