Friday, September 4, 2009
Ingestible pills helping Longhorns beat the heat
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
While struggling through searing conditions the last few weeks, member of the Texas Longhorns’ training staff were looking for an edge to help them team persevere through the constant heat.
Austin has sweltered through its hottest summer since the 1850s with 67 days with 100 degree or more high temperatures. In the middle of that, the Longhorns have conducted their training camp to prepare for the upcoming season that begins Saturday night against Louisiana-Monroe.
“It’s definitely hotter than I can remember it,” Texas athletic trainer Kenny Boyd said. “I don’t know if we haven’t seen hotter days, but just a lot more of them. And when that happens, you get concerned about the cumulative effect it has for players who are depleting themselves through the week and maybe setting themselves up for a muscle pull or a heat ailment.
"Then, you throw the consistent heat into the mix and it just makes it that much harder.”
Among other pieces of modern technology, the Longhorns are using a high-tech measuring device to help combat heat-related circumstances through a tiny ingestible pill.
The Longhorns measure the heat of between 12 and 24 Longhorns deemed by the training staff to be considered high-risk at every practice.
This chosen group take a pill that allows Boyd and the other Texas trainers to check their core body temperatures by pressing a button. The Longhorns trainers are then able to monitor the players' temperatures using hand-held devices. The trainers hold the device about six inches from the player and soon learn the player's core temperature because of the ingestible theromemeter.
Boyd said the silicone-coated CorTemp capsule – which is about the size of a vitamin and contains thermometers, a radio transmitter and a battery – is swallowed about five hours before practice begins.
During the time after the ingestion, the pill eventually is transported to the player’s intestines. While there, it provides a constant reading of the player’s temperature before the pill is passed naturally. Cost of the pill is about $35 apiece.
It’s not exactly a new invention and other NFL and college teams over the years have used it. It’s become more and more prevalent as teams try to avoid the heat-related incidents that led to the death of former Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer, who died in 2001 of complications brought on by heat stroke.
Any time a player’s core temperature reaches 103 degrees, he is immediately pulled from the practice for rest.
“I don’t necessarily think we would know if they had reached that level without the capsule,” Boyd said. “Because in many cases it’s just something they push themselves through in a normal workout. Basically, what this does is gives us an early warning system that allows them to cool down before we send them back out.”
When a player’s temperature reaches 104 degrees, Boyd said they are removed from practice for the day. They typically are sent to an ice bath for immediate cooling after that diagnosis.
The Longhorns used air-cooled training shirts that are popular among players and have practiced inside in the school’s air-conditioned bubble more than in previous summers. The cumulative result has helped them avoid any heat-related incidents this summer.
Earlier, technology brought about cooling tents and cool capes. Those inventions were seen as natural evolutions from items like iced towels, electrolyte-laced sports beverages and squirt drinking bottles.
“We are in an age now where technology and sports medicine now work together to benefit athletes,” Boyd said. “These things are now more of a preventive tool than anything else. And it’s helping. But all of the tools and technology still can’t replace what an athletic trainer can do for a student-athlete once they get on the field.”