The purpose of this study was to investigate the involvement of neutrophil dynamics and function in exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) and delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and the effect of molecular hydrogen (H₂) intake on these parameters. Nine healthy and active young men performed H₂ and placebo bath trial in a crossover design. They carried out downhill running (-8% slope) for 30 min at a speed corresponding to 75~85% of peak oxygen uptake (VO₂peak). Subsequently, they repeated bathing for 20 min per day for one week. Degree of muscle soreness (visual analogue scale: VAS), peripheral leukocyte counts, neutrophil dynamics and function, muscle damage, and inflammation markers were measured. Plasma interleukin (IL)-6 concentration was significantly correlated with peripheral neutrophil count, VAS, and serum creatine kinase activity, respectively, after downhill running. Peripheral neutrophil count and serum myoglobin concentration were also significantly correlated. Conversely, there were no effects of H₂ bath. These results suggest that IL-6 may be involved in the mobilization of neutrophils into the peripheral blood and subsequent EIMD and DOMS after downhill running; however, it is not likely that H₂ bath is effective for the inflammatory process that was centered on neutrophils after downhill running.
Keywords: delayed-onset muscle soreness; downhill running; inflammation; molecular hydrogen; muscle damage; neutrophil; oxidative stress.