Eccentric exercise commonly results in muscle damage. The primary sequence of events leading to exercise-induced muscle damage is believed to involve initial mechanical disruption of sarcomeres, followed by impaired excitation-contraction coupling and calcium signaling, and finally, activation of calcium-sensitive degradation pathways. Muscle damage is characterized by ultrastructural changes to muscle architecture, increased muscle proteins and enzymes in the bloodstream, loss of muscular strength and range of motion and muscle soreness. The inflammatory response to exercise-induced muscle damage is characterized by leukocyte infiltration and production of pro-inflammatory cytokines within damaged muscle tissue, systemic release of leukocytes and cytokines, in addition to alterations in leukocyte receptor expression and functional activity. Current evidence suggests that inflammatory responses to muscle damage are dependent on the type of eccentric exercise, previous eccentric loading (repeated bouts), age and gender. Circulating neutrophil counts and systemic cytokine responses are greater after eccentric exercise using a large muscle mass (e.g. downhill running, eccentric cycling) than after other types of eccentric exercise involving a smaller muscle mass. After an initial bout of eccentric exercise, circulating leukocyte counts and cell surface receptor expression are attenuated. Leukocyte and cytokine responses to eccentric exercise are impaired in elderly individuals, while cellular infiltration into skeletal muscle is greater in human females than males after eccentric exercise. Whether alterations in intracellular calcium homeostasis influence inflammatory responses to muscle damage is uncertain. Furthermore, the effects of antioxidant supplements are variable, and the limited data available indicates that anti-inflammatory drugs largely have no influence on inflammatory responses to eccentric exercise. In this review, we compare local versus systemic inflammatory responses, and discuss some of the possible mechanisms regulating the inflammatory responses to exercise-induced muscle damage in humans.