Managing heat and immune stress in athletes with evidence-based strategies

Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2014 Sep;9(5):744-50. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2014-0232. Epub 2014 Jun 6.


Heat and immune stress can affect athletes in a wide range of sports and environmental conditions. The classical thermoregulatory model of heat stress has been well characterized, as has a wide range of practical strategies largely centered on cooling and heat-acclimation training. In the last decade evidence has emerged of an inflammatory pathway that can also contribute to heat stress. Studies are now addressing the complex and dynamic interplay between hyperthermia, the coagulation cascade, and a systemic inflammatory response occurring after transient damage to the gastrointestinal tract. Damage to the intestinal mucosal membrane increases permeability, resulting in leakage of endotoxins into the circulation. Practical strategies that target both thermoregulatory and inflammatory causes of heat stress include precooling; short-term heat-acclimation training; nutritional countermeasures including hydration, energy replacement, and probiotic supplementation; pacing strategies during events; and postevent cooling measures. Cooperation between international, national, and local sporting organizations is required to ensure that heat-management policies and strategies are implemented effectively to promote athletes' well-being and performance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Athletes*
  • Athletic Performance*
  • Body Temperature Regulation
  • Heat Stress Disorders / immunology
  • Heat Stress Disorders / metabolism
  • Heat Stress Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Heat-Shock Response*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / immunology
  • Immune System / metabolism
  • Immune System / physiopathology*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / physiopathology*
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Nutritional Status
  • Physical Conditioning, Human
  • Signal Transduction


  • Inflammation Mediators