Muscle damage is linked to cytokine changes following a 160-km race

David C. Nieman, Charles L. Dumke, Dru A. Henson, Steven R. McAnulty, Sarah J. Gross, Robert H. Lind

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


Muscle damage and perceived soreness following the 160-km Western States Endurance Run were related to changes in plasma cytokines and use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Subjects included 60 ultramarathoners (mean ± SE, age 45.3 ± 1.1 years) who finished the race in under 30 h (26.3 ± 0.4 h). Blood samples were collected the morning prior to and immediately following the race, and subjects recorded muscle soreness during the week following the race using a 10-point Likert scale (DOMS). Seven plasma cytokines were measured including IL-6, IL-10, IL-8, IL-1ra, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF), monocyte chemotactic protein 1 (MCP-1), and macrophage inflammatory protein 1β (MIP-1β). Cytokine changes were compared between NSAID users and nonusers, and correlated with creatine phosphokinase (CPK) and DOMS. Significant increases were measured for all seven cytokines, with the greatest fold increases seen for IL-6 (125×), IL-10 (24×), and G-CSF (12×). CPK was correlated with changes in IL-6, G-CSF, IL-10, IL-1ra, and MCP-1 (r = .49-.68), (P < .001), but not IL-8 or MIP-1β. DOMS averaged 7.1 ± 0.3 the day after the race, and 5.0 ± 0.3, 2.5 ± 0.2, and 1.6 ± 0.1 3 days, 5 days, and 7 days post-race, respectively, and each was correlated with CPK (r = .40-.63, P < .001) and changes in IL-6, G-CSF, IL-10, and MCP-1 (r = .28-.77, P < .05). A comparison of NSAID users (72% of athletes) and nonusers showed no differences in CPK or DOMS, but did reveal greater increases in five of seven cytokines in the NSAID users (P < .05). In conclusion, muscle damage in athletes competing in a 160-km race was significantly correlated with post-race DOMS and increases in five of seven cytokines. NSAID users did not experience a reduction in muscle damage or DOMS, but did have higher post-race plasma levels in five of seven cytokines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)398-403
Number of pages6
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2005


  • IL-10
  • IL-1ra
  • IL-6
  • IL-8
  • Muscle soreness
  • NSAIDs


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