A cooling glove, developed by Stanford researchers H. Craig Heller and Dennis Grahn, is showing capabilities for athletes that are ‘better than steroids’, and legal.
‘The Glove’, as it is called by the Stanford duo, is nearing a commercial version. A ‘rapid thermal exchange device’, the unit takes advantage of the heat-transfer veins in the hand to rapidly cool the body.
It works by creating a vacuum that draws blood into the hands where cold circulating water cools the blood which then returns to the heart and cools the entire body. The technology seems sound and cooling the body is in line with current research on muscle fatigue and recovery, and the researchers claim it is “better than steroids, and legal”.
However, Dennis Grahn himself seems a little bemused by their ‘incidental find’. “We really stumbled on this by accident”, he said.
The story began with research into how animals regulate their heat. The team discovered that nearly all mammals have built-in heat radiators. Dogs have them in their tongues, rabbits in their ears and rats in their tails; hairless areas of the body that allow excess heat to be dumped when needed.
In humans, we have several of these areas (known as arteriovenous anastomoses, or AVAs); our face, feet and – most effectively – the palms of our hands.
The Glove works by maintaining a careful balance to allow just the right amount of cooling. Cool it too much and all you get is a really cold hand! The right amount of cooling has a seriously beneficial effect on the body.
On study showed the use of The Glove with a test subject performing pull-ups. The tester could achieve 180 pull-ups before using The Glove before his muscles were completely exhausted. By applying it between sets, he went from 180 to over 620 pull-ups in just six weeks.
The Glove is effectively pressing a ‘reset button’ that allows the athlete to continue to work hard, without any evidence of the body being damaged from overwork – hence the claim that it is better than steroids. Thanks to these results, versions of The Glove have already been put to use at world-famous sporting clubs, such as the San Francisco 49ers and Manchester United Football Club.
A commercial cooling glove wouldn’t just be used to reset muscle fatigue. The creators believe it can help reduce death or serious injury from hyperthermia and heat stress in hot countries. You never know, it could be the difference for those teams that are having to face the prospect of playing the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar – it might even be portable and worn during matches by then!