Rushing at full speed, ball cradled at his side, the running back gets slammed to the left by a 300-pound lineman, spins right, stays on his feet, keeps his legs churning, and then gets savagely crunched by a pair of flanking defenders who pull him violently to the ground. The very next play, the breathless running back does it again.
Football is a game a grit and resilience; a game where the will and power to push forward an extra yard can make all the difference. That’s why a device invented by two Stanford biologists has garnered the attention of the National Football League. CoreControl™ is a glove that looks a lot like the spawn of a coffee pot and a water bottle. Panting football players come to the sidelines and stick a hand inside the device, which creates an airtight seal around the wrist. CoreControl then pulls blood into the palm, cools it and returns it to the heart, which pumps it out to the muscles and organs. The effect is that a player is cooled down from the inside - a method much more effective and beneficial than fans, mists or fluids. The inventors even claim that CoreControl has been proven to increase the length of time athletes can compete. Certainly, their claims must have some validity because the device is currently being used on the sidelines by both the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders.
At the “core” of the new invention is patented Rapid Thermal eXchange (RTX) technology, which provides a way to manipulate core temperature and accelerate the body's natural heat-dissipation process. The science behind the technology is this: if you stay cool, less blood is moved to the skin for heat dissipation, making more blood available to service working muscles with delivery of oxygen and nutrients, and removal of metabolic byproducts. Inventors Dennis Grahn and Craig Heller found that cooling overheated muscles dramatically improved physical performance, allowing athletes to work out harder and longer. "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." During one of the invention’s first athletic trials, a test subject went from doing 180 pull-ups a session to 616 in only six weeks.
The company that currently produces the device, Avacore, claims “a 5 to 10 minute application of CoreControl can enhance the energy level for the rest of the day and facilitate performance in the next session of activity”. Beyond athletics, the inventors hope the device will eventually be used for medical applications - like treating stroke and heart attack victims. "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." Despite such innovative potential, based on the performances of both the 49ers and the Raiders yesterday, the invention does have some limitations. Namely, it cannot eliminate mistakes like fumbles, interceptions and missed tackles that tend to lose football games.
CoreControl is available for purchase from Avacore for a retail price of $2,500. The company is also currently working to develop a more streamlined, less expensive model.