The end of steroids? New device enhances performance in the palm of your hand
chowdawg | September 23, 2008 at 10:27 amby
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It was found that cooling overheated muscles dramatically improved physical performance, allowing athletes to work out harder and longer, and hold on to their gains.
Muscle fatigue could actually be reversed in a short amount of time, giving muscles that are fresher faster and provide enhanced performance.
Although athletes have been the main focus of the research so far, the real benefit to the general population is on the health and medical side. Doctors and paramedics would be able to induce hypothermia and hyperthermia, so that if someone had a heart attack or a stroke, their chances of having permanent damage of the heart muscle or brain are significantly reduced if their body temperature can be dropped below 35 degrees Celsius in the first hour. It also has implications for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients.
Some of the most common characteristics include fatigue, weakness, balance problems and numbness.; this low heat tolerance affects many MS patients physically and mentally. The ability to lower core body temperature may improve quality of life by reducing fatigue and improving motor control.
NFL players from the San Francisco 49ers Oakland Raiders and the Miami Hurricanes are using it as well as cyclists who competed in this year's Tour de France. It would also seem to have obvious uses for soldiers, firefighters, industrial workers and anyone who was looking to enhance their athletic performance.
Maybe steroids are old news.
The device, called the Glove and invented by two Stanford biologists, is used by the Niners during games and at practice for players' health. But its applications are far broader: from treating stroke and heart attack victims to allowing soldiers to remain in the field longer under intense heat.
"We use the Glove primarily for health reasons," said Dan Garza, the 49ers' medical director. "But outside of sports, it has potential for a lot of exciting things. This technology is a much more effective way of cooling the core temperature than what we would typically do - misting, fanning, cold towels, fluids."
Grahn and Heller also found that cooling overheated muscles dramatically improved physical performance, allowing athletes to work out harder and longer, and hold on to their gains. "We learned that you can actually reverse that muscle fatigue in a short amount of time," Heller said. "And if you cool muscles during rest, you get a much greater recovery than if you rested without cooling."
In the early 1990s, Heller and Grahn first began looking at using controlled heat to halt tremors in patients coming out of anesthesia. When they put their device over the hand and arm of a patient at Stanford Medical Center, "The core temperature went up so fast," Grahn said, "we thought our recording equipment had broken." The tremors stopped.
Their first "aha" moment in cooling came after they talked their assistant Vinh Cao into doing his regular workouts in the lab instead of at the gym. His routine included 100 pull-ups. One day, Grahn and Heller started using an early version of the Glove to cool him for 3 minutes between rounds of pull-ups. They saw that with the cooling, his 11th round of pull-ups was as strong as his first. Within six weeks of training with the cooling breaks, Cao did 180 pull-ups a session. Six weeks later, he went from 180 to 616.
While a set of pull-ups might take less than a minute, it's enough for the temperature of those muscles to rise, Heller said. "We learned that you can reverse that muscle fatigue in a short amount of time. And if you cool muscles during rest, you get a much greater recovery than if you rested without cooling."
"The real benefit to humanity from this technology is that we will be able to induce hypothermia and hyperthermia," said Chuck Hixson, Avacore's president. "This is beneficial in medicine because when you have a heart attack or a stroke, if you can lower the core body temperature below 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) in the first hour, you will substantially eliminate the chance of permanent damage of the heart muscle or brain."
Avacore is in contract with the military to deliver the new, streamlined gloves by the end of the year. Some 100 units of the cooling device are in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division. It is also being used by other football teams, including the Oakland Raiders and the Miami Hurricanes, and by American cyclists who competed in this year's Tour de France.
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