Local blood flow was measured with 133Xe clearance technique in eight male distance runners, where one leg was cooled for 20 min by applying two "instant cold packs" on the quadriceps muscle. An initial cooling period after resting was followed by a second cooling period 10 min after running. Skin temperature was maximally reduced after 4.5 min of cooling, both at rest and after running, by 15 degrees C and 14.9 degrees C, respectively. During the first 5 min of cooling no reduction of blood flow was seen. After 10 min of cooling blood flow was significantly reduced in the cooled compared to the control leg by 49% (P less than 0.05) after resting and 34% (P less than 0.05) after running. A maximum reduction of blood flow by 66 and 69% (P less than 0.01), respectively, was seen 10 min after the cooling period. In the event of an acute injury, this delayed reaction of cryotherapy on intramuscular blood flow should be carefully considered.