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Air-Conditioned Shoulder Pads Keep Football Players Cool

Posted Jul 21 2008 10:03am

Researchers at the University of Florida Research Foundation have developed a Temperature Management System (TMS) that blows cool, dry air underneath the shoulder pads of football players during rest periods.

Football players often practice and play in hot, humid weather, which poses a risk for heat-related illness.  The researchers developed the TMS to mitigate the dangers of heat-related illness.  The TMS cooling system works with specially designed shoulder pads that have grooves or air channels to direct cool, dry air over the player’s back and chest.  They have also design a TMS air bladder to retrofit current “off-the-shelf” shoulder pads.

During rest periods players can “hook up” to a small, portable air compressor to get a blast of cool air for a short period of time before they continue with the game or practice.

A study performed by the University of Florida in Gainesville, and funded by a grant from the National Football League Charities, examined the effectiveness of the cooling system in 15 athletes.

The participants wore shoulder pads, shorts, and helmets during two testing sessions – one with and one without cool air blown under their shoulder pads.  They performed three exercise cycles that consisted of jogging and sprinting on a treadmill in a room with a heat index of approximately 92 degrees Fahrenheit.  Each exercise cycle was separated by 10-minute rest periods.

Dr. Mary Beth Horodyski and colleagues found up to a 1 degree drop in core body temperature when the cool air was blown under the shoulder pads.  They also found that it helped keep heart rate lower as the duration of the exercise sessions increased.

This is an interesting study and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was added to shoulder pads of NFL and college athletes within the next few years.  Very cool stuff.

Reference: MedLine Plus

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