Stanford University resarchers may have stumbled on the next wave of performance enhancers for athletes — a way to cool the core temperature of the whole body with a glove that pulls heat out through the hands. The glove, which has been in trials for years and is getting ready for a commercial debut, uses veins in the hand designed for heat transfer to rapidly cool athletes following workouts, decreasing the time they need to recover and allowing them to get the most our of every moment.
The research started, as most important research does, with the question “Bears — how do they work?” In particular, the glove’s inventors were curious what biological mechanism prevented bears from overheating during hibernation. The answer: arteriovenous anastomoses, or AVAs. AVAs are veins close to the surface of the skin that show up in just about every known mammal and serve to regulate body heat, blowing off steam when you’re overheating and conserving it when you’re cold.
In humans, AVAs are most prevalent as networks in the face, on the soles of the feet and on the palms of your hands — right where that gypsy predicted you would lose $20 to a fraud. The Rapid Thermal Exchange, or RTX, applies vacuum pressure to the hands. That pressure makes the AVAs expand and draws more blood into them. Once the blood is in cycling through the hand, it’s cooled by water running along the outside of the vacuum glove. That blood then cycles back into the body at a lower temperature, which quickly causes the core temperature of the body to drop. Like a very fast, high-tech ice bath, that lowering of temperature helps athletes get more out of every workout and enables them to perform consistently better over time, showing a performance boost about equal to that of illegal steroids.
The treatment uses just one hand, meaning your other is still free to pump mad iron, and has been shown in tests to improve performance in test subjects in activities from endurance running to pull-ups. Researcher Dennis Grahn hails the device as a way to “reach your maximum performance capacity without using performance-enhancing drugs.”
Though that really does beg the question — is using a cybernetic vacuum glove to super-cool your body really that much more natural or ethical than shooting a dose of Super Soldier Serum into your vein? We’re not saying it is or isn’t. But the conversation seems worth having. While you’re considering it, you can watch the glove in action in the video below.
- No more snorting mustard after a workout for us. Which is a relief
- Better than steroids? Maybe. Better than Incredible Hulk cocaine? We think not
- And you don’t even have to buy it via drug catapult. The glove is delivered by trebuchet