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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 Feb;47(2):240-5. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000409.

Effectiveness of cold water immersion in the treatment of exertional heat stroke at the Falmouth Road Race.

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1Department of Kinesiology, Korey Stringer Institute, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT; and 2Falmouth Hospital, Falmouth, MA.



This study aimed to investigate the effectiveness (speed of cooling and survival rates) of cold water immersion (CWI) in the treatment of patients with exertional heat stroke (EHS). Secondly, this study aimed to compare cooling rates on the basis of gender, age, and initial rectal temperature (Tr).


Eighteen years of finish line medical tent patient records were obtained from the exertional heat illness treatment area at the Falmouth Road Race. Study participants included patients with EHS who were treated with CWI in the medical tent. The number of EHS cases was recorded for each year, and incidence was established on the basis of the number of finishers. Overall cooling rate and differences between initial Tr, age, and sex were evaluated.


A total of 274 cases of EHS was observed over the 18 yr of collected data. A mean of 15.2 ± 13.0 EHS cases per year was recorded, with an overall incidence of 2.13 ± 1.62 EHS cases per 1000 finishers. The average initial Tr was 41.44°C ± 0.63°C, and the average cooling rate for patients with EHS was 0.22°C·min ± 0.11°C·min. CWI resulted in a 100% survival rate for all patients with EHS. No significant interactions between cooling rate and initial Tr (P = 0.778), sex (P = 0.89), or age (P = 0.70) were observed.


CWI was found to effectively treat all cases of EHS observed in this study. CWI provided similar treatment outcomes in all patients, with no significant differences noted on the basis of initial Tr, age, or sex. On the basis of the 100% survival rate from EHS in this large cohort, it is recommended that immediate (on site) CWI be implemented for the treatment of EHS.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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