Exercise Thermoregulation with a Simulated Burn Injury: Impact of Air Temperature

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2020 Mar;52(3):712-719. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002184.


The U.S. Army's Standards of Medical Fitness (AR 40-501) states: "Prior burn injury (to include donor sites) involving a total body surface area of 40% or more does not meet the standard." However, the standard does not account for the interactive effect of burn injury size and air temperature on exercise thermoregulation.

Purpose: To evaluate whether the detrimental effect of a simulated burn injury on exercise thermoregulation is dependent on air temperature.

Methods: On eight occasions, nine males cycled for 60 min at a fixed metabolic heat production (6 W·kg) in air temperatures of 40°C or 25°C with simulated burn injuries of 0% (Control), 20%, 40%, or 60% of total body surface area (TBSA). Burn injuries were simulated by covering the skin with an absorbent, vapor-impermeable material to impede evaporation from the covered areas. Core temperature was measured in the gastrointestinal tract via telemetric pill.

Results: In 40°C conditions, greater elevations in core temperature were observed with 40% and 60% TBSA simulated burn injuries versus Control (P < 0.01). However, at 25°C, core temperature responses were not different versus Control with 20%, 40%, and 60% TBSA simulated injuries (P = 0.97). The elevation in core temperature at the end of exercise was greater in the 40°C environment with 20%, 40%, and 60% TBSA simulated burn injuries (P ≤ 0.04).

Conclusions: Simulated burn injuries ≥20% TBSA exacerbate core temperature responses in hot, but not temperate, air temperatures. These findings suggest that the U.S. Army's standard for inclusion of burned soldiers is appropriate for hot conditions, but could lead to the needless discharge of soldiers who could safely perform their duties in cooler training/operational settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air*
  • Body Surface Area
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Burns / physiopathology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Personnel
  • Temperature*
  • Young Adult