A cooling sleeve, worn here in a simulation of endoscopic surgery, could delay fatigue in a surgeon’s arm during extended procedures. (Credit: Paula Burch-Celentano)

TULANE—Researchers are outfitting athletes, surgeons, and others with “cooling sleeves” to control body temperature during physical exertion in an effort to delay fatigue.

Mic Dancisak, director of the Center for Anatomical and Movement Sciences at Tulane University, is overseeing the work.

Liquid Cooling/Warming Garments in sleeve form apply heat or cold to a specific area of the body. Dancisak’s team is quantifying the delay in the time it takes to reach a state of functional muscle fatigue. They are currently analyzing data from their experiments, and early results indicate that temperature control can indeed stave off fatigue.

The team first worked with women volleyball players and male baseball pitchers to determine how temperature control affected the athletes’ performances.

In between sets and innings, the players wore the sleeve to cool down and then warm up muscles. “We noticed that there was about a 30 percent increase in maintenance of power with the volleyball players when they used the sleeves,” says Dancisak. “With the pitchers, we simply looked at pitching speed. Without the sleeve, their fastball declined.

“But when they wore the sleeve in between innings, they were able to maintain their fastball speed through all seven innings. One of the pitchers actually increased his speed.”

Dancisak recently applied the cooling sleeve to delay fatigue in a surgeon’s arms during surgery, reducing tremor and delaying fatigue in longer procedures.

Danicisek first began exploring the concept of body temperature control when conducting his postdoctoral work with Victor Koscheyev at the University of Minnesota. Their research focused on keeping people cool in extreme environments—such as during space walks. His work at Tulane looks at applications closer to home, and targeting specific areas of the body.

“We’re starting to look at applying the sleeve technology to more long-term surgical procedures,” says Dancisak. “For instance, we could use this technology to selectively control the body temperature of a patient. I can warm the legs and torso, but if doctors are doing surgery on the arm, I can keep it chilled and reduce blood flow, which is certainly a benefit during surgery.”

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