The study of exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) is of paramount importance not only because it affects athletic performance but also because it is an excellent model to study the mechanisms governing muscle cachexia under various clinical conditions. Although, a large number of studies have investigated EIMD and its associated inflammatory response, several aspects of skeletal muscles responses remain unclear. In the first section of this article, the mechanisms of EIMD are reviewed in an attempt to follow the events that result in functional and structural alterations of skeletal muscle. In the second section, the inflammatory response associated with EIMD is presented with emphasis in leukocyte accumulation through mechanisms that are largely coordinated by pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines released either by injured muscle itself or other cells. The practical applications of EIMD and the subsequent inflammatory response are discussed with respect to athletic performance. Specifically, the mechanisms leading to performance deterioration and development of muscle soreness are discussed. Emphasis is given to the factors affecting individual responses to EIMD and the resulting interindividual variability to this phenomenon.
Keywords: aseptic inflammation; exercise; immune system; muscle damage; recovery; redox status.