World Cup winners used cooling tech born out of tragedy
YOU probably won’t have heard of Korey Stringer, the NFL player who died aged 27 when extreme heatstroke caused his organs to fail, one by one, during pre-season training in summer 2001.
The Minnesota Vikings lineman’s passing forced American football to rethink its player welfare policy and provoked greater interest in the technology capable of preventing repeats.
One device whose success was born out of the tragedy, a cooling glove that quickly lowers blood temperature, gained traction not just as a life-saver, but also as a performance-enhancer.
And, 13 years after Stringer’s death, that device might just have played an important role in deciding the outcome of the World Cup.
The CoreControl glove uses a vacuum to bring blood to the surface of the hand, where a pad filled with cold water cools it before it is recirculated.
Its makers say this is more effective than applying ice or using an air-conditioned room – as Stringer did – as it does not constrict blood vessels, and thus impede the body’s natural cooling mechanisms.
But the internal cooling has another benefit. It can help to speed up recovery from exertion, allowing athletes to train longer and harder and delay or even prevent cramp, it is claimed.
Germany’s World Cup squad bought 20 of the £1,000 units and used them both during their pre-World Cup preparations and at the tournament itself, where they had the cooling gloves accessible at half-time.
It is just one of many ways in which Joachim Low’s team sought marginal gains, but their freshness was notable; twice they beat opponents in extra-time, including in Sunday’s final, when Mario Gotze’s 113th-minute winner broke Argentina’s resistance.
“It breaks the fatigue cycle,” says Trevor Steven, former England footballer and now City A.M. columnist, who is distributing CoreControl in Britain and the Middle East.
“The Germans trained with them for several months and had them in their dressing room at half-time. Fifteen minutes is not sufficient to cool, but five minutes with the glove will bring temperature back down.”
The Football Association chose not to buy the gloves for England’s World Cup campaign team as they wanted more time to study the benefits, but two of the Premier League’s biggest clubs are set to trial them.
Like Stringer, the technology may not be well known in this country, but Germany’s World Cup success could mean that is about to change.