Home > Journals > Medicina dello Sport > Past Issues > Medicina dello Sport 2009 June;62(2) > Medicina dello Sport 2009 June;62(2):157-68



Publishing options
To subscribe
Submit an article
Recommend to your librarian





Medicina dello Sport 2009 June;62(2):157-68


language: English, Italian

Lymphocytes and lymphocyte subpopulations responses to potholing performed in an alpine subterranean environment

Stenner E. 1, 3, Piccinini C. 1, Bussani A. 2, Biasioli B. 1, Delbello G. 3

1 Department of Laboratory Medicine, Trieste University Hospital, Trieste, Italy 2 Department of Biological Oceanography, National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics, Trieste, Italy 3 School of Sports Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy


Aim. The aim of this research was to study the lymphocytes (Lym-T) and some lymphocyte subpopulations (Lym-S) changes during a subterranean exploration in a 700-m deep cave. The exercise, especially when coupled with mental stress, is associated with a transient redistribution of immunocompetent cells. Isolation, confinement and sleep deprivation are also stressors that can transitorily affect the immune system while darkness, through the melatonin action, enhances the immune response. Unlikely other sports, alpine potholing is characterised by the presence of all these stressors simultaneously and represents a unique multiple stress model that may be helpful in understanding the immune response to extreme conditions.
Methods. Five male potholers were studied testing the Lym-T and Lym-S (CD3+, CD4+, CD8+, CD16+ and CD19+ cells). Blood drawings were performed: before starting the experiment (C1: 7:30 p.m., evening control, C2: 7:30 a.m., morning control), on the floor of the cave (-700 m), about five hours after the entrance (T1: 7:30 p.m.), after the ascent, at the bivouac, 10 minute far from the exit of the cave (T2: 7:30 a.m.) and after 24 hours of rest (T3: 7:30 a.m.). For the statistical analysis a non parametric Fisher’s randomization test was used (P≤0.05).
Results. Lym-T dropped significantly between C1 and T1 and between C2 and T3. The CD3+, CD4+, CD8+ cells significantly decreased between C1 and T1 as well as CD3+, CD8+ and CD16+ cells between C2 and T2. Lym-T and all the Lym-S significantly decreased the day after rest (T3). These data underline that the peculiar characteristics of this sport are associated with a marked depression of Lym-T and Lym-S suggesting that, especially during frequent explorations, there could be a depression of immunocompetent cell due to cumulative effects of repeated bouts of intense and long duration exercise.
Conclusion. The strenuous characteristics of this sport prevent the quick restore of the homeostasis; a period of total repose between two demanding subterranean performance should be respected.

top of page