Precooling, hyperthermia, and postexercise cooling rates in humans wearing American football uniforms

Jeremy Taylor, Kevin C. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Context: Exertional heatstroke is one of the leading causes of death in American football players. Precooling (PC) with whole-body cold-water immersion (CWI) may prevent severe hyperthermia and, possibly, exertional heatstroke. However, it is unknown how much PC delays severe hyperthermia when participants wear American football uniforms during exercise in the heat. Does PC alter the effectiveness of CWI once participants become hyperthermic or affect perceptual variables during exercise? Objectives: We asked 3 questions: (1) Does PC affect how quickly participants become hyperthermic during exercise in the heat? (2) Does PC before exercise affect rectal temperature (Trec) cooling rates once participants become hyperthermic? (3) Does PC affect perceptual variables such as rating of perceived exertion (RPE), thermal sensation, and environmental symptoms questionnaire (ESQ) responses? Design: Crossover study. Setting: Laboratory. Patients or Other Participants: Twelve physically active males (age ¼ 24 6 4 years, height ¼ 181.8 6 8.4 cm, mass ¼ 79.9 6 10.3 kg). Intervention(s): On PC days, participants completed 15 minutes of CWI (9.988C 6 0.048C). They donned American football uniforms and exercised in the heat (temperature ¼ 39.18C 6 0.38C, relative humidity ¼ 36% 6 2%) until Trec was 39.58C. While wearing equipment, they then underwent CWI until Trec was 388C. Control-day procedures were the same except for the PC intervention. Main Outcome Measure(s): Rectal temperature, heart rate, thermal sensation, RPE, and ESQ responses were measured throughout testing. The duration of cold-water immersion was used in conjunction with Trec to calculate cooling rates. Results: Precooling allowed participants to exercise 17.6 6 3.6 minutes longer before reaching 39.58C (t11 ¼ 17.0, P, .001). Precooling did not affect postexercise CWI Trec cooling rates (PC ¼ 0.188C/min 6 0.068C/min, control ¼ 0.208C/min 6 0.098C/ min; t11 ¼ 0.9, P ¼ .17); ESQ responses (F2,24 ¼ 1.3, P ¼ .3); or RPE (F2,22 ¼ 2.9, P ¼ .07). Precooling temporarily lowered thermal sensation (F3,26 ¼ 21.7, P, .001) and heart rate (F3,29 ¼ 21.0, P, .001) during exercise. Conclusions: Because PC delayed hyperthermia without negatively affecting perceptual variables or CWI effectiveness, clinicians may consider implementing PC along with other proven strategies for preventing heat illness (eg, acclimatization).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)758-764
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Athletic Training
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Afterdrop
  • Environmental symptom questionnaire
  • Exertional heat stroke
  • Rectal temperature
  • Thermal sensation


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