Will the 49ers have a tech advantage?

January, 31, 2013
1/31/13
8:00
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Colin KaepernickMichael Zagaris/Getty ImagesBesides tattoos, Colin Kaepernick will be wearing EvoShield's protective ribshirt underneath his jersey.
All week, experts have been breaking down the Super Bowl to the point that every position and statistical category has been discussed by every talking head 10 times over -- wide receivers vs. cornerbacks, offensive line vs. defensive line and, of course, Coach Harbaugh vs. Coach Harbaugh.

But which team has the upper hand when it comes to technology?

With Silicon Valley in their backyard, leave it to the San Francisco 49ers to employ the following tech innovations, which might just give them a competitive advantage come Sunday.

1. EvoShield

Want to know what’s under 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick’s jersey besides all those tattoos?

It’s called EvoShield, and it’s a form of rib protective gear being used by 30 of 32 NFL teams, by players at every position, including more than a dozen other quarterbacks.

This weekend alone, four Niners -- quarterbacks Alex Smith and Scott Tolzien, running back LaMichael James and Kaepernick -- will be donning EvoShield.

The gear, often dubbed a “second skin,” is custom-fit to protect the player’s body, without restriction or adding excessive weight -- in fact, only an increase of just more than a pound.

EvoShield CEO Bob Pinckney explains that the protective gear works by dispersing impact, not absorbing it, and it manages to do so while also remaining light and breathable.

The gel-like material comes out of a pack, and it starts to harden only when exposed to air.


That’s why, for example, the rib shirt Kaepernick wears took 20 to 30 minutes to mold to his body.

[+] EnlargeEvoShield
Courtesy of EvoShieldEvoShield only adds just over a pound of weight.
While EvoShield is still new (it has been around since 2006), the product is already making waves in the NFL with some of the biggest names in the game.

A number of players actually began wearing EvoShield in college. Kaepernick has been a fan since Nevada, James brought it along with him from Oregon, and Robert Griffin III ran with it at Baylor, becoming an official spokesperson.

And while Kaepernick and other 49ers will be wearing EvoShield on Sunday, it is longtime former Baltimore Ravens kicker Matt Stover who's actually an investor in the company.

EvoShield sells for $90 to $100, and is available at sporting stores for high school players and other football fans.
2. CoreControl

The phrase “cool off” isn’t taken lightly by 49ers medical director Dan Garza -- it’s taken literally. Garza uses four units called CoreControl (see our Gear Test) to help his players cool down quickly in order to maintain peak performance levels.

Research has shown that high body temperature can lead to fatigue, impacting physical and mental capacities. That said, athletes are stronger when they’re able to cool off quickly. CoreControl works by cooling the body's temperature -- from the inside out -- in just minutes, allowing for faster recovery.

By placing CoreControl on the palm of an athlete’s hand, the cooling device actually works by extracting body heat. Think sticking your hand in a bucket of ice is the same thing? CoreControl takes it to a whole new level.

Co-founded by two Ph.D.’s at Stanford University, the device was developed based on the principles of thermoregulation.

Garza says that the device gives his players an advantage in terms of health and safety (although he couldn’t say whether it results in a competitive advantage). He adds that certain players on the 49ers heat up more than others, and attributes that to genetics, rather than position or size.

[+] EnlargeDynavision
Courtesy of Dynavision CoreControl works by cooling body temperature.
Bruce Read, president and chief operating officer of Dynavision/TSS, the company that manufactures and sells CoreControl, says that the technology is helpful for players in any position. “CoreContol offers significant benefit for both endurance as well as strength muscle recovery. Therefore anyone from a lineman to a receiver to a running back would see a huge benefit,” he says.

CoreControl can be quite helpful in the span of a game, Read says, "both for muscle and fatigue recovery and reducing cramping as well as the safety factor to help reduce the potential for heat stress.”

Other teams using CoreControl include the St. Louis Rams, Golden State Warriors, Stanford football, British Tennis Association, and a number of rugby teams in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

CoreControl costs $895 and units can be purchased at corecontrolcooling.com.
Katie Linendoll is an Emmy Award-winning technology expert contributing to ESPN, ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. She contributes tech segments to CNN and hosts a tech show on Spike TV. She has a degree in Information Technology New Media from Rochester Institute of Technology and is a diehard Buffalo Bills fan.

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