Oct 19, 2017
The Heat is On

Most athletes will practice or compete in high temperatures at some point in their careers. If not managed appropriately, the heat and humidity can negatively affect their bodies, sometimes even causing death. In the creation of the new MISSION Heat Lab, the Korey Stringer Institute hopes to save lives and maximize performance by studying the human body’s response to these extreme conditions.

“The prevention side of heat stroke is one of the big reasons this lab was built,” Douglas Casa, PhD, ATC, FNAK, FACSM, FNATA, CEO of the Korey Stringer Institute and Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Director of Athletic Training Education at the University of Connecticut, told The Washington Post. “We can look at things related to hydration, body-cooling strategies, acclimatization, and the effects of certain medications, supplements, and clothing on how much you heat up.”

According to an article from the Hartford Courant, the new lab features advanced temperature controls that allow for the simulation of specific environments, with the ability to increase the temperature to 110 degrees with 90 percent humidity. There is a strong air flow to help mimic the outdoors and a climate-controlled bathroom to make sure that no outside elements affect a research participant at any point during a particular study. To further simulate differing environments athletes face, radiant heat lamps will soon be installed that mimic sunlight and cloudy skies.

The lab is stocked with training equipment including treadmills and stationary bikes. While participants use these to work out in a specific environment, physiological monitoring systems track their vital signs, such as heart rate, internal temperature, and skin temperature.

“Exertional heat stroke is a constant concern for athletes, active military personnel, laborers, and others who are called on to perform in hot conditions,” Dr. Casa told UConn Today. “This lab will increase our understanding of heat illness and how body temperature impacts performance. It will also help us develop better methods for cooling, which is an important part of our commitment to keeping athletes, warfighters, and laborers safe.”

Researchers are learning these new and better methods for cooling through a state-of-the-art cooling area in the lab. The hope is that it gives new insights into the different responses the human body has to various cooling treatments after being active in a heated environment.

Another goal of the lab is to learn the best methods for optimizing performance. UConn athletic teams will use it to prepare for competitions in hot and humid weather. For NFL and NCAA athletes who have already suffered from heat stroke, the lab can serve as a place to establish their new heat tolerance levels and create a recovery plan to get them back on the field.

Finally, the apparel company MISSION anticipates using the lab to test new clothing that will eliminate moisture from the body. They also hope to try out wearable technology that could alert an athlete when they begin to overheat, leading them to make a change in their workout and lessening their chances of experiencing heat stroke.

Image by Staff Sgt. Maria Bowman

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