Focus on Technology
1:55 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Athletes don't have to be on the hot seat

Slugging it out on a court that is way hotter than the actual air temperature is a set-up for heat related illness according to Dr. Brian Grawe, a UC Health sports medicine surgeon, who was the doctor for tennis players at the Western & Southern Open. Right now there are a couple of common ways for them to cool down including waiting for ball boys and girls to bring wet towels.

But last month at the Citi Open in Washington D.C. players got to try out something new…Cool Seats…a pad they could sit on between change-overs that maintained a temperature of 55 degrees. The one for chair umpires is warmer, 80 degrees because they could sit on it throughout the entire match. There is also a cooling vest.

The technology is manufactured by Northeast Exotherm in Indiana. The company selling the device, X Temp, says on its website:

“The simplest way to explain the technology would be a comparison to water.  Water only freezes at 32 degrees and takes a long time to do so.  The life of the freeze is short and dissipates quickly.  This technology is the exact opposite.  It can freeze quickly, at safe variable temperatures - and hold that specified temperature for an extremely long period of time.”

Dr. Grawe calls it pretty exciting technology. “We control our body temperature by getting blood flow to our skin and we all know about evaporative heat loss in terms of sweating, however that accounts for only about 20-30% of loss for our body. So what the ATP has done by designing both the cool seat and the vest, they are both exploiting both conductive and evaporative heat loss and this is where the other 60-70% of our heat loss can occur."

He says the time it takes for players to cool down depends on how hot the weather is and how hot the athlete is.

Former #15 in the world Robby Genepri was at the Western & Southern Open. He was also at the Washington tournament and that’s where he first tried out the cool seat. The 31 year old is already a fan. He told the ATP, " it kept his butt cool and refreshed" and he used the vest while on a bike cooling down.

Chair Umpire Susan Burns saw the cool seats at the Citi Open.“I didn’t notice anybody taking them out from underneath their seat and throwing it off to the side. So it seemed like something they were comfortable with and maybe beneficial.”

Burns, who also was an umpire at the Western Southern Open, said it does get hot up in the chair. She would like to try it herself.

Quite a few tennis players aren’t familiar with the high-tech cushion, including Serena Williams. WVXU asked her about it at the Western & Southern Open.“I don’t really know about the cool seat yet, but if I’m hot , I don’t like to be shocked with cold, so I like to kind of take it a little bit at the time.”

Dr. Grawe says there really aren’t any health negatives, unless in the rare case your body was allergic to the material. He really likes the vest idea.

Look for the Cool Seats to chill athletes in other sports and for use by weekend warriors.