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Open Access Case Report

Changes in body core and body surface temperatures during prolonged swimming in water of 10°C—a case report

Christoph Alexander Rüst1, Beat Knechtle12* and Thomas Rosemann1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of General Practice and for Health Services Research, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

2 Gesundheitszentrum St. Gallen, Vadianstrasse 26, St. Gallen, 9001, Switzerland

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Extreme Physiology & Medicine 2012, 1:8  doi:10.1186/2046-7648-1-8

Published: 1 November 2012

Abstract

Background

This case report describes an experienced open-water ultra-endurance athlete swimming in water of 9.9°C for 6 h and 2 min.

Methods

Before the swim, anthropometric characteristics such as body mass, body height, skinfold thicknesses, and body fat were determined. During and after the swim, body core (rectum) and body surface (forearm and calf) temperatures were continuously recorded.

Results

The swimmer (53 years old, 110.5 kg body mass, 1.76 m body height, 34.9% body fat, and a body mass index of 35.7 kg/m2) achieved a total distance of 15 km while swimming at a mean speed of 2.48 km/h, equal to 0.69 m/s, in water of 9.9°C. Body core temperature was at 37.8°C before the swim, increased to a maximum of 38.1°C after approximately 20 min of swimming, and then decreased continuously to 36.3°C upon finishing the swim. The lowest body core temperature was 36.0°C between 35 and 60 min after finishing the swim. Sixty minutes after the swim, the body core temperature continuously rose to 36.5°C where it remained. At the forearm, the temperature dropped to 19.6°C after approximately 36 min of swimming and decreased to 19.4°C by the end of the swim. The lowest temperature at the forearm was 17.6°C measured at approximately 47 min before the athlete stopped swimming. At the calf, the temperature dropped to 13.0°C after approximately 24 min of swimming and decreased to 11.9°C at the end of the swim. The lowest temperature measured at the calf was 11.1°C approximately 108 min after the start. In both the forearm and the calf, the skin temperature continuously increased after the swim.

Conclusions

This case report shows that (1) it is possible to swim for 6 h in water of 9.9°C and that (2) the athlete did not suffer from hypothermia under these circumstances. The high body mass index, high body fat, previous experience, and specific preparation of the swimmer are the most probable explanations for these findings.

Keywords:
Hypothermia; Afterdrop; Body fat; Skinfold thickness; Open-water swimming