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Outperform steroids with this body-cooling glove

Researchers are improving a cooling device they claim can enhance athletic performance better than steroids. It could be used to help prevent hyperthermia deaths.

An improved, more compact version of Stanford's cooling glove is used in a lab test.
Steve Fyffe/Stanford University

It looks like a hockey goalie's blocker glove, and indeed this mitt might help stop more pucks when fatigue takes its toll.

Stanford University researchers are working to improve a device that can rapidly cool the body after an intense workout, allowing faster recovery and performance enhancement that's "substantially better" than steroids.

The $3,000 CoreControl Glove has been on the market for some time. It uses a low-tech blood-cooling method to allow athletes to perform better and longer. Basically, cool water flows into a vacuum around the hand, cooling blood in the palm.

A new prototype of the device is more compact, resembling a flat plastic glove (attached to a cooler) instead of a bulky coffee pot. It's said to be more effective than the earlier version.

Biologists Dennis Grahn and H. Craig Heller say palm-cooling technology works as well as or better than steroids. In a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, they report that palm-cooling improved bench-press and pull-up performance by 40 and 80-144 percent, respectively.

The results confirmed earlier findings, but are still relevant because doping still plagues sports.

"Given the recent and continued press about substance abuse in high-profile athletes, the emergence of an equally attractive alternative seems important," Grahn says.

In the latest prototype of the device, a mitt-shaped vacuum around the palm expands many small veins close to the surface that act as radiators. As more blood flows into the veins, cool water in the lining causes its temperature to fall, in turn cooling the body.

This is far more effective than ice water, since it will merely cause the veins to constrict, in effect increasing body heat. Check it out in the video below.

The prototype is being modified before commercialization, but it could become a treatment for medical emergencies such as hyperthermia.

"Every year we hear stories about high school athletes beginning football practice in August in hot places in the country, and there are deaths due to hyperthermia," Stanford quoted Heller as saying. "There's no reason why that should occur."