Better Than Steroids?

I read an article last week about this research being done at Stanford University about a cooling glove that will reduce your core body temperature and muscle fatigue. The work is being done by two biologists at the university, Dennis Grahn and Craig Heller. The work started with Heller and Grahn trying to understand the rapid cooling effect that takes place in a bear’s paw, and realized that the human palm is also an area of fast heat exchange. Nearly all mammals, in fact, have these built-in networks of veins near the skin’s surface dedicated to cooling the body.

After testing the device on a co-worker who was a gym rat, they found after doing several rounds of pullups, then using the cooling glove, he was able to return to his original number of reps during his next set. When they saw this, they started cooling after every other set. After using the glove for six weeks, his maximum pullups in a workout went from a total of 180 to over 620! That is an amazing improvement!!

Check out a video here:

The researchers now realize that when our muscles begin to fatigue, it is because as our core body temperature increases, some of the one of the enzymes we need for muscle performance begins to change shape and becomes unusable. By cooling down the core temperature we are able to keep these enzymes in their necessary shape for use by the muscles.

Not only could this technology be useful in enhancing athletic performance, but also for sports safety to reduce overheating (hyperthermia) and its associated deaths. To date, the researchers have not seen any negative effect of using the glove on the rest of the body — making it effectively better than steroids.

I think this is very interesting technology and wonder what affect it might have on athletics in the future if it becomes widely available. I also find it interesting that just submerging your hand in ice doesn’t have the same effect. The network of veins in the palm essentially shut off when they are too cold, making the cooling process a “delicate balance”.

What do you think of this technology? How do you think it will impact sports?

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