Could it be true—ice and a vacuum can give a steroid-like boost to your athletic performance while speeding your recovery? According to peer-reviewed studies, yes. The glove, called CoreControl and developed by Stanford University biologists H. Craig Heller and Dennis Grahn, ups an athlete’s stamina by decreasing his core body temp through one of the body’s sweatiest spots, the palm of the hand.
When core body temperature is within normal range, your muscles are poised to perform. Overheat, and the body, fearful that you are going to cook your core organs—heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and brain—sends your blood towards the surface of your body to cool. Overheat, and not only does fatigue set in, but strength, endurance, and cognitive functions fall apart with the lack of blood where it counts. (Your muscles need blood to deliver oxygen and nutrients, and to clear out metabolic waste like lactic acid.) Send all the blood to the skin, and those blood functions are put on hold.
All mammals have specific heat-dissipating strategies: dogs pant, dumping heat through their tongues; rabbits “sweat” through their ears. In humans, hot blood travels to the skin, but particularly in the palms and soles of the feet. When an athlete gets hot, blood flow naturally increases through these skin regions to them.
Two Stanford biologists reasoned that if they could cool blood at one of the spots closest to the body’s surface without causing vasoconstriction—which shuts down capillaries and prevents the blood from being cooled—they could keep more blood in the muscles where it can help the athlete perform.
Simple surface cooling didn’t work. Jamming an athlete’s hand into a bag of ice or misting him with cold water made the sweaty runner, cyclist or football player feel cooler, but the instant and dramatic cold shut down natural heat dissipation.
Heller and Grahn discovered that by controlling temperature and using a gentle vacuum, they could bypass the vasoconstriction and reduce an athlete’s core temp during exercise, while also minimalizing his cramping and dehydration post workout.
The CoreControl glove has been shown to bump performance during activity by 20%, while also speeding recovery time. It’s currently being worn by the San Francisco 49ers and Golden State Warriors, as well as Stanford University’s football team, whose players even use it during games.
Current drawbacks: It’s bulky—so you have to sit to use it, and it requires ice—two issues the Dynavision team is working to remedy. ($895)