To address the question of whether delayed onset muscular soreness (DOMS) following intense eccentric muscle contraction could be due to increased production of the arachidonic acid derived product prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). 10 healthy male subjects were submitted to eccentric and concentric isokinetic exercises on a Kin Trex device at 60 degrees/s angular velocity. Exercise consisted of 8 stages of 5 maximal contractions of the knee extensor and flexor muscle groups of both legs separated by 1 min rest phases. There was an interval of at least 30 days between eccentric and concentric testing, and the order of the two exercise sessions was randomly assigned. The subjective presence and intensity of DOMS was evaluated using a visual analogue scale, immediately, following 24 h and 48 h after each test. Five blood samples were drawn from an antecubital vein: at rest before exercise, immediately after, after 30 min recovery, 24 h and 48 h after the tests. The magnitude of the acute inflammatory response to exercise was assessed by measuring plasma levels of polymorphonuclear elastase ([EL]), myeloperoxidase ([MPO]) and PGE2 ([PGE2]). Using two way analysis of variance, it appeared that only eccentric exercise significantly increased [EL] and DOMS, especially of the hamstring muscles. Furthermore, a significant decrease in eccentric peak torque of this muscle group only was observed on day 2 after eccentric work (- 21%; P < 0.002). Serum activity of creatine kinase and serum concentration of myoglobin increased significantly 24 and 48 h after both exercise tests. However, these variables reached significantly higher values following eccentric contractions 48 h after exercise. Mean [PGE2] in the two exercise modes remained unchanged over time and were practically equal at each time point. On the basis of these findings, we conclude that the magnitude of polymorphonuclear (PMN) activation, muscle damage, and DOMS are greater after eccentric than after concentric muscle contractions. However, the hypothesized interplay between muscle damage, increased PGE2 production, DOMS sensations, and reduced isokinetic muscle performance was not substantiated by the present results.