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Free Content Precooling, Exertional Heatstroke Risk Factors, and Postexercise Cooling Rates

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BACKGROUND: Precooling (PC) before exercise may help prevent severe hyperthermia and exertional heatstroke (EHS). Before clinicians can advocate PC as an EHS prevention strategy, it must effectively mitigate factors associated with EHS development while not lessening the effectiveness of EHS treatment. Therefore, this study determined if PC affected rectal temperature (Trec), body heat storage, heart rate (HR), ratings of perceived exertion (RPE), thermal sensation, sweat rate, and postexercise cold-water immersion (CWI) Trec cooling rates.

METHODS: In this randomized, crossover, counterbalanced study, 12 subjects (6 men, 6 women; age = 22 ± 2 yr; mass = 73.5 ± 7.9 kg; height = 171 ± 7 cm) underwent 15 min of CWI (10.0 ± 0.03°C) in an environmental chamber (38.6 ± 0.6°C; 36 ± 2% humidity). After a 10-min rest, they exercised to a Trec of 39.5°C. Subsequently, they underwent CWI (9.99 ± 0.03°C) until Trec reached 38°C. On control (CON) days, the same procedures occurred without the 15-min PC intervention. Trec, HR, thermal sensation, and RPE were measured at various times before, during, and after exercise.

RESULTS: PC lowered body heat storage and Trec by 15.7 ± 15.0 W · m−2 and 0.42 ± 0.40°C, respectively, before exercise. Subjects exercised significantly longer (PC = 66.7 ± 16.3 min, CON = 45.7 ± 9.5 min) and at lower Trec (∼0.5 ± 0.5°C) and HR (∼10 ± 7 bpm) following PC. PC significantly lowered sweat rate (PC = 1.02 ± 0.31 L · h−1, CON = 1.22 ± 0.39 L · h−1), but did not affect RPE or CWI cooling rates (PC = 0.18 ± 0.14°C · min−1; CON = 0.19 ± 0.05°C · min−1). Thermal sensation significantly differed between conditions only at pre-exercise (PC = 3 ± 1, CON = 5 ± 0.5).

DISCUSSION: PC delayed severe hyperthermia and mitigated dehydration without affecting thermal perception or cooling rates posthyperthermia. PC may help prevent dangerous hyperthermia in athletes.

Wohlfert TM, Miller KC. Precooling, exertional heatstroke risk factors, and postexercise cooling rates. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2019; 90(1):12–17.
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Keywords: dehydration; heart rate; rectal temperature; thermal sensation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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