Misting Fans for Sports: Improving both Safety and Performance
Heat Stress Causes Injuries. The most dangerous opponent athletes face each season is often one that can not be seen: heat. Numerous recent articles have detailed deaths and serious injuries resulting from over-heating, and the athletic organizations responsible for regulating sports and employment environments have taken notice and are busy promulgating new guidelines, rules, and punishments.
The key problem is the damaging rise in the athlete’s core temperature, resulting from the body’s inability to cool itself, which leads to damage to organs and internal systems, and, potentially, death. As many studies have noted, the warning signs often come too late.
Heat Stress Reduces Performance. Of lesser concern than serious injury is the reduction in performance that heat stress causes. As the athlete begins to overheat, the body’s resources are diverted from performance to injury prevention.
Studies have also shown that overheating affects concentration levels, and decision-making abilities. During the game, that means poor performance and even poorer thinking; during training sessions, that means fewer practice drills, and less learning.
Effective Cooling Reduces Risk of Injury. While drinking fluids helps with heat stress relief, its primary benefit is re-hydration (a lengthy process and often too late). Moreover, while removal of heavy equipment and the application of cooling pads will also help the skin breath, the cooling effect is not fast enough over the entire body to be effective when the core temperature has passed certain dangerous levels.
By far the most effective means of reducing core temperatures is for the entire body to be cooled, preferably in an environment where the ambient temperature has also been reduced. Frequently a cold bath is used, into which the athlete is completely immersed. While this is an effective means of reducing core temperature it also requires the removal of all equipment and uniforms – meaning that the game or training session has ended for that particular athlete. It also requires the constant icing and re-icing of the cold-water bath.
Powerful misting fans and systems can also the same immersive cooling effect. When strong enough fans are focused on an overheating athlete, not only is the body’s core temperature brought under control, but the air around the athlete is also cooled, meaning that the body will not immediately begin re-heating again.
Effective Cooling Improves Performance. Recent studies have also shown that mid-game or mid-training session cooling improves performance by as much as 6%. More than prevention of injury, these studies show that forcibly cooling the athlete’s core temperature during breaks from exertion actually results in measurably better performance.
Similarly, some top athletics programs, such as the Australian Olympic Team, are experimenting with pre-cooling of athletes before exertion. These tests have shown that reducing an athletes core temperature to slightly below normal prior to an event can also result in better performances.