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Keeping It Cool on the Football Field

Special air-conditioned shoulder pads may protect players from heat stroke

SATURDAY, Feb. 21, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Football shoulder pads that can be hooked up to a portable air-conditioning unit when players are standing on the sidelines may protect gridiron athletes from dangerous heat-related illnesses.

The shoulder pads, created by researchers at the University of Florida's (UF) College of Medicine, have a port in the back. A hose plugs into the port and circulates cool air through a series of ventilation channels in the shoulder pads. The cool air is pumped from a portable air compressor and a cooler/dryer unit that can provide air that's as cool as 60 degrees F.

Jacksonville University players tested the shoulder pads during preliminary research and said they were refreshed by the rush of cool air around the chest, back and shoulders.

"I can't tell you exactly how much heat the system eliminates, but I think every bit helps," system co-developer Dr. Nikolaus Gravenstein, a UF professor and chairman of anesthesiology, says in a prepared statement.

"This is a supplement to drinking adequate fluids and getting proper athletic conditioning," Gravenstein says.

Heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses are a threat to football players, who play in conditions where field temperatures sometimes reach 120 degrees F.

"It's very difficult to cool (football players) externally. Blowing on them with cold air or fans from the outside is made largely ineffective," Gravenstein says.

Field tests to determine how much the shoulder pads help reduce core body temperature will continue this spring.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on heat-related illnesses.

SOURCE: University of Florida, news release, February 2004
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