Cool Air Blown Under Pads May Protect Footballers From Illness

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THURSDAY, July 10 (HealthDay News) -- Blowing cool dry air under a football player's uniform may prevent heat-related illness, University of Florida researchers report.

Forcing the cool air between a player and his pads reduces core body temperature and heart rate dramatically, according to the findings, which are expected to be presented Thursday at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine annual meeting, in Orlando, Fla.

"Heat stroke in football players has unfortunately been brought to national attention following the deaths of five football players between 2001 and 2004," study author Mary Beth Horodyski, an associate professor and director of research for the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation at the College of Medicine at the University of Florida, said in a news release issued by the society. "We wanted to look at this new technology for cooling the athlete by blowing cool, dry air underneath their uniform to see how it would affect body temperature and heart rate."

When the systems the body uses to regulate heat become overwhelmed, body temperature climbs uncontrollably. Since 1995, 31 football players -- from the NFL down to the sandlot -- have died from heat stroke.

The study found that when the athletes, in controlled exercise sessions in rooms heated to 92 degrees Fahrenheit, had the cool, dry air blown under their shoulder pads, their core body temperature dropped by as much as one degree. During these sessions, the athletes' average core body temperature was 100.3 degrees Fahrenheit, but it was 101.7 degrees Fahrenheit without the cool, dry air.

The athletes subjected to the cool, dry air blasts also had heart rates about eight to 10 beats per minute lower than those not treated.

"Obviously when the air was blown underneath the uniforms, the athletes benefited," Horodyski said. "Any small amount of reduction in core body temperature and decrease in heart rate could be the difference between an athlete suffering a heat-related illness or not. We need to continue investigating new technology such as this to prevent heat illness."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about preventing heat-related illness.