The aim of this study was to assess the effects of cold-water immersion (cryotherapy) on indices of muscle damage following a bout of prolonged intermittent exercise. Twenty males (mean age 22.3 years, s = 3.3; height 1.80 m, s = 0.05; body mass 83.7 kg, s = 11.9) completed a 90-min intermittent shuttle run previously shown to result in marked muscle damage and soreness. After exercise, participants were randomly assigned to either 10 min cold-water immersion (mean 10 degrees C, s = 0.5) or a non-immersion control group. Ratings of perceived soreness, changes in muscular function and efflux of intracellular proteins were monitored before exercise, during treatment, and at regular intervals up to 7 days post-exercise. Exercise resulted in severe muscle soreness, temporary muscular dysfunction, and elevated serum markers of muscle damage, all peaking within 48 h after exercise. Cryotherapy administered immediately after exercise reduced muscle soreness at 1, 24, and 48 h (P < 0.05). Decrements in isometric maximal voluntary contraction of the knee flexors were reduced after cryotherapy treatment at 24 (mean 12%, s(x) = 4) and 48 h (mean 3%, s(x) = 3) compared with the control group (mean 21%, s(x) = 5 and mean 14%, s(x) = 5 respectively; P < 0.05). Exercise-induced increases in serum myoglobin concentration and creatine kinase activity peaked at 1 and 24 h, respectively (P < 0.05). Cryotherapy had no effect on the creatine kinase response, but reduced myoglobin 1 h after exercise (P < 0.05). The results suggest that cold-water immersion immediately after prolonged intermittent shuttle running reduces some indices of exercise-induced muscle damage.