The aims of this study were to examine the plasma concentrations of inflammatory mediators including cytokines induced by a single bout of eccentric exercise and again 4 weeks later by a second bout of eccentric exercise of the same muscle group. Ten untrained male subjects performed two bouts of the eccentric exercise involving the elbow flexors (6 sets of 5 repetitions) separated by four weeks. Changes in muscle soreness, swelling, and function following exercise were compared between the bouts. Blood was sampled before, immediately after, 1 h, 3 h, 6 h, 24 h (1 d), 48 h (2 d), 72 h (3 d), 96 h (4 d) following exercise bout to measure plasma creatine kinase (CK) activity, plasma concentrations of myoglobin (Mb), interleukin (IL)-1beta, IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra), IL-4, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12p40, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF), myeloperoxidase (MPO), prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), heat shock protein (HSP) 60 and 70. After the first bout, muscle soreness increased significantly, and there was also significant increase in upper arm circumference; muscle function decreased and plasma CK activity and Mb concentration increased significantly. These changes were significantly smaller after the second bout compared to the first bout, indicating muscle adaptation to the repeated bouts of the eccentric exercise. Despite the evidence of greater muscle damage after the first bout, the changes in cytokines and other inflammatory mediators were quite minor, and considerably smaller than that following endurance exercise. These results suggest that eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage is not associated with the significant release of cytokines into the systemic circulation. After the first bout, plasma G-CSF concentration showed a small but significant increase, whereas TNF-alpha and IL-8 showed significant decreases compared to the pre-exercise values. After the second bout, there was a significant increase in IL-10, and a significant decrease in IL-8. In conclusion, although there was evidence of severe muscle damage after the eccentric exercise, this muscle damage was not accompanied by any large changes in plasma cytokine concentrations. The minor changes in systemic cytokine concentration found in this study might reflect more rapid clearance from the circulation, or a lack of any significant metabolic or oxidative demands during this particular mode of exercise. In relation to the adaptation to the muscle damage, the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 might work as one of the underlying mechanisms of action.