Dehydration and Symptoms of Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness in Hyperthermic Males

Document Type


Publication Date



Context: Exercise in the heat produces cellular conditions that may leave skeletal muscle susceptible to exercise-induced microdamage. Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a clinical model of contraction-induced skeletal muscle injury.

Objective: To determine whether thermoregulation during exercise heat stress adversely affects muscle injury and the accompanying DOMS.

Design: Randomized group test-retest design.

Setting: Laboratory.

Patients or Other Participants: Ten healthy male volunteers were randomly assigned to either the euhydration/hyperthermic or dehydration/hyperthermic group.

Intervention(s): Participants were randomly assigned to treadmill walking in a hot, humid environmental chamber (40°C and 75% relative humidity) with either oral rehydration (euhydration/hyperthermic) or fluid restriction (dehydration/hyperthermic). Immediately after heat exposure and while hyperthermic, participants performed an eccentrically biased downhill run to induce DOMS.

Main Outcome Measure(s): We measured DOMS characteristics pre-exercise and at 0.5, 24, 48, 72, and 96 hours postexercise.

Results: Treadmill exercise and exposure to the hot ambient environment elicited a 0.9% body mass loss for the euhydrated/ hyperthermic (mean rectal temperature after 60 minutes of heat-stress trial = 38.2 ± 0.4°C) and 3.3% body mass loss for the dehydrated/hyperthermic participants (mean rectal temperature after 60 minutes of heat-stress trial = 38.1 ± 0.4°C). Quadriceps perceived pain was significantly higher (F5,40 = 18.717, P ≤ .001) than baseline at 24 and 48 hours postexercise, following the classic pattern of DOMS. Overall lower extremity perceived pain was significantly higher for the dehydration/hyperthermia group than the euhydration/hyperthermia group (F1,8 = 6.713, P = .032). Punctate tenderness of the vastus lateralis for the dehydration/hyperthermic group was 6.9% higher (F5,40 = 4.462, P = .003) than for the euhydration/ hyperthermic group. No clinically important findings were revealed for passive range of motion for knee flexion. For both groups, quadriceps isometric strength (F5,40 = 12.924, P ≤ .001) was 17.5% and 20.0% lower at 0.5 hours postexercise than at 72 and 96 hours postexercise, respectively. Further, quadriceps isometric strength remained 10.5% reduced at 24 hours postexercise compared with 96 hours postexercise.

Conclusions: Skeletal muscle microdamage, indirectly evidenced by DOMS, was exacerbated in hyperthermic participants dehydrated by exercise in a hot ambient environment. Individuals performing novel exercise, particularly with a significant eccentric component, should use caution when training in a hot, humid environment and implement frequent rest and rehydration breaks.


This article was originally published in Journal of Athletic Training, volume 40, issue 4, in 2005.

Peer Reviewed



National Athletic Trainers' Association, Inc.