Korey Stringer Institute Medical and Science Advisory Board Member
Yuri Hosokawa PhD, ATC
As one of my last tasks as the Vice President of Education and Communication, I attended the 98th American Meteorological Society (AMS) Meeting in Austin to present at the joint session, Informing Heat-Health Practitioners to Reduce Risk through Impact-Based Decision Support. The first half of the session was comprised of case study presentations that showcased the use of weather data, such as the wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT), to conduct health risk assessment in public health, occupational health, and athletics. While there still remain limitations in deducing the association between WBGT and health outcomes, use of weather data to make informed decisions for future heat events to minimize its adverse effects on health, economy, and productivity are being investigated across the U.S.A continued effort in observational and intervention-based studies are warranted to identify successful models.
Presentations included in the latter half of the session, including my presentation from the KSI, were reports from current initiatives supported by the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS). The NIHHIS is being developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and domestic and international partners to understand this problem, develop a robust and science-informed response, and build capacity and communication networks to improve resilience. My presentation at the session featured KSI’s on-going inter-agency collaboration in drafting a round table document among athletics, military, and occupational settings to use WBGT for activity modifications in the heat. Other NIHHIS projects featured in the session included a project lead by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in North Carolina that investigated the use of web-based forecasting tool (Heat Health Vulnerability Tool) by community stakeholders and the Hot Spots project, which aimed to increase the heat resilience in Mexico border region through education and evidence-driven public health interventions.
As depicted by presentations in the session, a successful environmental heat risk assessment requires an inter-agency and interdisciplinary network. Projects led by NIHHIS provide great examples for others to follow, and it is no doubt that exercise physiologist and athletic trainers play integral roles in examining the impact of heat.
The winter weather did not stop the 70th Annual Eastern Athletic Trainers’ Association (EATA) Meeting and Clinical Symposium from being held in Boston, MA on January 5th-January 8th.
The 4-day conference started off with an Educators Conference in which numerous professionals presented information on competency based learning, fostering clinical capabilities, incorporating research components, and integrating evidence based practice within Athletic Training Education. The Educator’s Conference also included a Profession Development & Peer to Peer Session. Jessica Barrett and Dr. Stephanie Mazerolle, both members of the UConn Department of Kinesiology, facilitated the Young Educators Peer to Peer Session.
The EATA Student Program provided additional opportunities for student learning and involvement. The annual District 1 and District 2 Quiz Bowls were hosted Friday night. Patrick Coley, a senior in UConn’s undergraduate Athletic Training Program and the President of UConn’s Athletic Training Society, represented UConn during the District 1 Quiz Bowl. Presentations as part of the Student Program included topics such as Blood Flow Restriction Therapy, Current Topics of Concussion Evaluation and Management, and Prosthetics. There was a panel presentation known as “Stories from The Sidelines” in which panelists discussed their involvement in caring for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and introduced the ATs Care peer support group.
The EATA General Session included a wide variety of presentations including injury response behaviors, eating disorders, athletic insurance, concussions, healthcare communication, and the rehabilitation and treatment of athletic-related injuries. Attendees also had an opportunity to earn evidence based practice continuing education units which are part of the Athletic Training Board of Certification continuing education requirements.
Members of KSI had the opportunity to not only attend the conference, but also share recent research with the Athletic Training community.
Dr. Douglas Casa presented a lecture titled “The KSI State Rankings of Health and Safety Policies for High School Athletes: What it Means for the EATA Member States.” Dr. Casa discussed the rankings of the 51 State High School Athletics Associations which were released on August 8, 2017. The states were ranked based on a 100-point rubric that assessed compliance with the current best practices for health and safety in high school athletics. Dr. Casa focused on the EATA member states and provided suggestions and strategies for improving health and safety standards.
Kelly Coleman presented original research in the form of a poster presentation titled “Junior Faculty Knowledge of Institutional Expectations for Tenure and Promotion.” Justin Rush also presented a poster titled “Spatting Increases Ankle Stability in Collegiate Field Sport Athletes: A Critically Appraised Topic” from his undergraduate work.
As always, the EATA provided a great weekend of education, sharing important research, and networking. Next year’s conference will be held in Valley Forge, PA. We hope to share more research from KSI in the future to continue to educate others and promote the Athletic Training profession.
Children dread them. And most adults probably do, too. They’re something one figures will be nicely tucked away, in the rear view, so to speak, never to be seen or, rather, felt once capable of holding an oral thermometer under the tongue. However, taking a subject’s core temperature during hard physical exertion has, until recently, always required the insertion of a rectal thermometer connected to a long wire. [See Exhibit A below.]
Fortunately, thanks to NASA and its Space Shuttle astronauts, including then-77-year-old Senator John Glenn, there is now a digestible transmitting thermometer that serves as an alternative. [See Exhibit B.] The size of a giant vitamin pill, or about three Tic Tacs, the transmitter is swallowed and, after a couple hours from ingestion, it reaches the intestinal tract and is able to send a wireless transmission, providing real-time core temperature readings. The transmitter then passes through the digestive system and is eliminated within a normal cycle of 18-30 hours. It’s one of the many advancements that have helped improve the study of human performance in athletics, including and especially endurance sports.
UConn’s New Facility
On September 22, 2017, the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute (KSI) opened its $700,000 “Mission Heat Lab,” a state-of-the-art laboratory designed to facilitate research and education for maximal performance, optimal safety and the prevention of death from exertional heatstroke (EHS). The lab was made possible by donations from, among others, the NFL—Korey Stringer was an offensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings who died in 2001 from EHS—Gatorade, Camelbak, and the namesake thermo-regulating active wear company, Mission.
I was fortunate enough to visit the lab and serve as an early test subject less than two weeks after it had opened. I was even more fortunate to have the option of using the digestible thermometer, thus foregoing the rectal alternative. Taking the subjects’ core temp readings is an absolute requirement of the lab. If the core rises above 103 degrees F, the test ends.
Other test participants were cyclists, including two-time Olympic mountain biker Lea Davison, and runners, such as Gediminas Grinius, winner of this year’s Ultra Trail World Tour. As a runner, I was put on a treadmill and told to go at an exertion level I could maintain for 90 minutes. The room measured 94 degrees F and the humidity was set at 60 percent. The highly-trained lab technicians, PhDs and doctoral students, guided by KSI’s CEO and UConn’s director of athletic training, Dr. Doug Casa, a passionate trail runner, performed the gold standard “body washdown” test on us. Very few labs are equipped to do this test, designed to measure your sweat content, down to the drop.
Before and after the exertion we were carefully weighed and then, while we ran or rode, we mopped up all the sweat and the technicians kept the wet towels. After we finished we were washed down inside of a giant trash bag, with a set amount of purified water so that the lab techs could later remove that control from the sample. Any water we consumed during the test was also factored into the results. Before the test, we had to follow a careful protocol of washing, including our exercise clothes, using only water, as detergent, lotion or deodorant would alter the results. Similarly, we were instructed not to drink alcohol or coffee for 24 hours before the testing.
Once we were washed down with the pre-measured purified water (see above), the technicians placed the sweaty towels and our drenched exercise clothing into the “sweat soup” to be measured for various electrolyte levels. My sweat loss was 3.8 percent of my body mass and my sodium loss was 980.0mg, which was in the normal range (0.18 to 1.5) for exercise in heat.
Based on our before and after weight and the amount of water consumed during the exertion, KSI determined our sweat rate, measured as liters per hour. Normal sweat rates are 1.5-2.5 L/hr for men, 1.3-2 L/hr for women. I lost almost exactly 5 pounds during my test and had a high sweat rate of 2.31 L/hr. My core rose to the high of 103.1F, running a max speed of 9mph and I consumed a measly 35g of water. My heart rate went from 90 to 160 and, according to my follow-up anaerobic threshold test, spent the last 15 minutes above that heart rate level.
Alberto Salazar was tested at UConn’s predecessor lab, run by Dr. Lawrence Armstrong, a leading expert on hydration and who now serves on KSI’s Medical and Science Advisory Board, and he had the outlier sweat rate of 3.7 L/hr. Salazar would lose as much as 8 percent of his body weight during his races and he put great emphasis on training for heat tolerance before the 1984 Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles. Humans are only able to take in 1.3-1.4 L/hr so, while a high sweat rate helps to cool the body during exertion, it isn’t all good because the loss of hydration can be a real detriment if you lose too much. According to my measured sodium loss, I’d need to have consumed 4.5 salt capsules or drank enough Nuun hydration mix for 2.5 tabs.
Clear and Copious
Dr. Armstrong invented the urine color chart and, with that simple educational measure, has probably done more for more individuals than any other campaign to address dehydration. The chart has been helpful to many and was even converted to resemble beer types at one of the Western States 100 aid stations, where they used it to illustrate the command of avoiding stouts and sticking to lagers. Clear and copious urine is usually a sign of adequate hydration.
We learned from Dr. Armstrong that, without excess, caffeine doesn’t have an impact on hydration. But he and Dr. Casa were quick to point out that one needn’t be dehydrated to suffer heat stroke and that if you wait until you are thirsty, you are already late because thirst isn’t triggered until you dehydrated by 1-2 percent. In contrast, however, there are schools of thought, namely, Dr. Tim Noakes of South Africa, who professes that runners are over-hydrating and need to listen to their bodies and let thirst be their guide. Dr. Casa agreed with Noakes that, for purposes of avoiding hyponatremia, a sodium imbalance suffered by recreational runners who drink excessive water, thirst is a safe guide.
The key determining factors of one’s sweat rate are intensity of exertion, body size and environmental factors, such as heat and humidity. The body is an incredible system for trying to thermoregulate and what you drink can show up in your sweat as soon as 10 minutes after you consume it.
The takeaway from KSI’s Mission Heat Lab was that there are considerable performance benefits to be gained from knowing your sweat rate, sweat content, how, when and with what to rehydrate. As an easy rule, if you use your morning weight, thirst and urine color as basic guiding indicators, you can stay on top of your hydration needs.
Dr. Casa, with the help of many of his assistants and PhD students, is publishing a book in early 2018, “Sport and Physical Activity in the Heat,” as a full resource for serious athletes, coaches, trainers, sports medicine practitioners, kinesiologists, concerned about performance in hot conditions.
“Since we do not currently have an accurate wearable technology that can provide real-time assessment of hydration status, it is essential for high-level athletes to have an understanding of factors that influence sweat rate (amount of fluid/electrolytes lost in a given amount of time in a given environmental conditions at a given intensity),” Casa said. “This knowledge can allow an athlete to train hydration replacement and develop an appropriate race-day strategy.
“We will eventually have an accurate real-time wearable for hydration status that athletes can perpetually monitor so tweaks can be made—although lab data would still establish the general plan. But until that time, the lab work helps establish a plan and race-day thirst, environmental changes, intensity, pre-event hydration, and etc. need to be considered to make hydration decisions.”
Vice President of Communication and Vice President of Education
Every October, members of KSI travel to Washington D.C. to volunteer at the Marine Corps Marathon medical tent. This year’s trip was also a special one because we were able to continue our efforts from last year in building relationships and exchange ideas with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
On Thursday, October 19th, KSI had the honor of gathering representatives from federal sectors that regulate heat activity modification guidelines or study implications of heat in the welfare of warfighters and laborers. The meeting was sponsored by the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS: https://toolkit.climate.gov/nihhis/), whose mission is to understand global health threat from extreme heat, develop a robust and science-informed response, and build capacity and communication networks to improve resilience. Participating agencies of NIHHIS include: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASP), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), NIOSH, NOAA, OSHA, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
KSI has a good history in working collaboratively with the occupational and military sectors, however, it was not until last year that we were able to gather representatives from all three sectors– athletic, occupational, and military– to convene at single location and exchange ideas for future collaborations. Integration of climate and weather data from NOAA is also critical in making data driven decision to enhance the policies and guidelines for the people in these settings who are often exposed to extreme heat. Participants of this year’s meeting are currently working on a manuscript that gathers current consensus regarding heat activity modification guidelines for the physically active population (athletes, warfighters, and laborers), which we hope to release next year.
On the following day, we attended the IIRM Sports Medicine Conference hosted by the International Institute for Race Medicine, MedStar Sports Medicine, and MedStar National Rehabilitation Network. The meeting was attended by many medical providers and students who were also volunteering at the Marine Corps Marathon. At the meeting, Dr. Douglas Casa gave a presentation regarding wearable technologies in sport. Despite the recent advancement in wearable technology, his presentation warned that there is yet to be reliable, real-time, noninvasive hydration and internal body temperature assessment devices on the market. As the field of wearable technology continues to grow, researchers and clinicians must stay up-to-date with the technology advancement while also acknowledging the technological limitations to make the best-informed decisions about using data from these devices.
Later in the afternoon of the conference, we also participated in a workshop that was designed to review various treatment algorithms for medical conditions commonly seen at race medical tents in the form of problem-based-learning scenarios. Exercise-associated collapse, cardiovascular arrest, exertional heat stroke, exertional hyponatremia, exercise associated muscle cramping and bleeding-control were covered in the workshop, all lead by the content experts. The hands-on workshop provided opportunities for young professionals to practice the skills for the first time and stimulated the exchange of various experiences from the veteran providers.
KSI was stationed at the Aid Station 9 on the day of the race, which was located between mile-21 and 22. The wet bulb globe temperature reading one-hour past the start of the race was in the mid-60’s, but quickly reached the high 70’s by noon, placing this year’s race as one of the warmer race in the history of the Marine Corps Marathon. The coordination of work among the corpsmen, athletic trainers, nurses, physical therapists, and physicians at the aid station was great. We also treated several exertional heat stroke patients on-site, where we made sure to cool the patients below 39°C before transport.
Our trip to Washington D.C. is a true demonstration of our mission statement– to provide research, education, advocacy and consultation to maximize performance, optimize safety and prevent sudden death for the athlete, warfighter and laborer. Whether we are treating marathon runners from exertional heat stroke or optimizing the regulations for worker safety in the heat, the physiological premise and impact of exertional heat stress is the “same” across athletes, warfighters, and laborers. Integration of minds across disciplines, such as the NIHHIS meeting, and continued advocacy to provide evidence based exertional heat stroke care are some of the core missions we will continue to carry forward from KSI. #Strive2Protect
Associate Director of Education and Assistant Director of Athlete Performance and Safety
KSI had the awesome, unique opportunity to test two CamelBak sponsored pro-athletes over
the course of two days! The athletes were Lea Davison, a two-time Olympian Mountain Biker (2012 & 2016), and Gediminas Grinius a decorated Lithuanian trail runner. Some very fit, athletically decorated media personnel underwent testing as well. The athletes were able to undergo heat and sweat testing, where they exercised for 60-minutes total. Because it was a hot environment, the athletes were asked to collect their sweat in a specially prepared towel,and atthe end of their hour, we didwhole-body wash downs to collect samples to assess their sweat electrolyte concentrations. Whole-body wash downs are the gold standard for assessing whole-body sweat electrolyte concentration and very few labs across the country still use this technique. Many have moved over to local collection in sweat pouches, which is a great method of assessing local sweat, but not necessarily valid for whole-body calculations.
The athletes were also able to complete an anaerobic threshold test or a VO2max test where we tested their ability to ward-off an accumulation of lactate (a by-product of anaerobic metabolism) where we could extrapolate their anaerobic threshold based on continual readings, or their maximal oxygen uptake by exercising until volitional fatigue, respectively. This was a great opportunity for KSI and allowed us to use our expertise to interact with some incredible athletes.
Crouched in a bucket inside UConn’s heat lab, Ironman triathlon finisher Adam Chase brushed water and sweat from his body as a researcher poured water over his head.
Three other researchers held high the plastic tarp that lined the bucket and would catch every drop falling from Chase, 51. Moments later, they tossed in the towels he’d just used to mop his face and back as he ran for 45 minutes at a 7-mph clip in the 94-degree room.
“Sweat soup,” one athlete said as she waited for her turn inside the Korey Stringer Institute’s new, $700,000 heat lab.
This salty concoction is what the University of Connecticut kinesiologists would weigh and test to determine how much Chase had sweat during his sweltering workout, how many electrolytes he’d lost and other metrics he might be able to use to improve his performance and lessen the risks of heat stroke from extreme exertion.
“It’s not half as glamorous as it sounds,” Luke Belval, director of research, joked after describing the process.
The same can’t be said for the lab itself, a 450-square-foot facility that opened Sept. 22 in Gampel Pavilion. After a three-year process, the Korey Stringer Institute unveiled a major upgrade made possible by $350,000 from UConn, $100,000 from Mission Athletecare – an active wear and thermo-regulation technology company that secured the lab’s naming rights – and other donors like the NFL.
The lab’s chamber includes $20,000 treadmills, a cold-water immersion tub, strong air flow that mimics the outdoors and a climate-controlled bathroom. It simulates balmy and humid conditions for athletes who come to UConn for hours-long sessions.
In temperatures that can reach 110 degrees and 90 percent humidity, researchers work with NFL and NCAA teams, the military and apparel companies to analyze the human body’s response to extreme conditions.
On the recent Thursday when the lab studied Chase, of Colorado, it also drew professional athletes who’d traveled to Storrs from Vermont, northern California and Lithuania.
And the lab’s reputation precedes its new digs. UConn researchers have been studying the effects of heat and humidity on exertion for 25 years, since Gampel was newly built and the heat lab inside of it was no bigger than a dorm room..
Researchers would control humidity by toggling between household humidifiers and dehumidifiers. They removed ceiling tiles above the treadmills to accommodate taller athletes.
At some point, someone slapped a sticker that reads, “FUN ZONE,” above the entrance to the lab.
“I’m sure in 1999, it was state of the art,” said Robert Huggins, the institute’s vice president of research and athlete performance and safety.
Even so, it was with that lab that the Korey Stringer Institute was founded in 2010 by its CEO, Doug Casa, UConn’s director of athletic training education.
He and the family of Korey Stringer, the Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle who died from exertional heat stroke in 2001, hoped with research and education, they could maximize athletic performance and save lives.
Since then, the institute has helped demonstrate that deaths like Stringer’s are preventable with quick, correct treatment – like the kind staff members provided while doing case studies of Falmouth Road Races in Massachusetts.
The lab has studied the effects of cold water immersion and cooling tarps, hydration and caffeination, humidity and sleep.
And it opened its doors to not only athletes – and, naturally, research participants – but people who’ve already suffered heat stroke as well as laborers and military members who want to prepare for hot and humid conditions.
“It was a basic facility we were able to do some cool things in,” Casa said of the old lab. “But this one really ups our ability to help athletes, warfighters and laborers who have to do intense work in the heat.”
“The potential for research and service for people who need help is greater than it’s ever been before.”
Over the course of three years, Casa sought ideas for the new Korey Stringer Institute by visiting high-end heat labs across North America, like the Nike Sport Research Lab in Portland and facilities at the University of Arkansas and University of Ottowa.
He says he borrowed the best features he could find and added some more. This winter, the lab will install radiant heat lamps to mimic the effects of sunlight and cloudy skies.
But already, the weeks-old lab is getting plenty of traffic on campus.
UConn students are not charged to use the facility like typical clients, and the women’s cross country team has taken to using the equipment a few times a week, as Chase, the professional ultrarunner, and Lea Davison, a two-time U.S. Olympian mountain biker, learned when they began their own warm ups.
STORRS, Conn. — Douglas Casa acknowledges his new heat laboratory at the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute could be viewed by some as a torture chamber.
He’ll be testing athletes, soldiers and others (sometimes for hours at a time) on a treadmill, stationary bike or cooling tub in an environment that can be controlled to reach temperatures of up to 110 degrees and 90 percent humidity.
“The difference is, everyone being tested here is a volunteer,” he said. “And we’re saving lives.”
The $700,000 Mission Heat Laboratory is designed to be used by the NFL, NCAA teams, the military, apparel manufacturers, and scientists interested in preventing and treating heat-related illnesses, optimizing performance in extreme conditions, and learning the temperature limits of the human body.
“The prevention side of heat stroke is one of the big reasons this lab was built,” Casa said. “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.”
Casa decided to make the study of heat and the human body his life’s work after nearly dying of heat stroke while competing in a 10K race at the Empire State Games in 1985.
He helped found the Korey Stringer Institute in 2010, after being approached by the family of the former Minnesota Vikings lineman who died of a heat stroke in 2001.
The institute’s work has helped rewrite heat-related protocols for the military along with the NFL, college football and other sports. Casa’s research, for example, proved that treating a heat stroke immediately on site to bring a body’s temperature down below 104 degrees can dramatically increase survival rates. That led to NFL teams putting cooling tubs at practice sites.
But Casa’s team had been working in a tiny 100-square-foot closet-like lab, using household humidifiers and dehumidifiers to conduct their research. Some of the lab’s ceiling tiles had to be removed to accommodate one of the taller athletes they tested.
UConn provided about $350,000 for the new high-tech lab with its environmental controls, $20,000 treadmills and computer monitoring equipment. It even has a bathroom so test subjects don’t have to leave the controlled environment during longer sessions.
The other half of the lab’s funding came from donors including the NFL, its players association and athletic trainers’ organization. Mission, an athletic apparel company co-founded by tennis star Serena Williams, basketball star Dwayne Wade and soccer star David Villa, spent $100,000 to secure the naming rights.
Josh Shaw, Mission’s chief executive, said it plans to use the lab to test new garments that will not only wick moisture from the body, but eliminate it from the clothing entirely. The lab also will be used to test new wearable technologies, sensors that can be placed in T-shirts for example, that could alert someone when they begin overheating.
“Serena Williams competes at 120 degrees at the Australian Open, that’s pretty extreme,” Shaw said. “So, if we can create a product that will help her be safe, we’re probably going to be able to use that technology for people, say, who do roofing or gardening, or contracting.”
The military, which has similar labs, is working in conjunction with Casa and Korey Stringer to conduct tests on people and materials to optimize how soldiers perform in places such as the Middle East, and determine whether certain people are fit for duty in the heat.
“Understanding different stresses in the heat, whether it’s combat load or uniforms that can be mitigated with different materials, different load carriages, different hydration or cooling strategies — those are things we can work out in the lab before they are worked out in the field,” said. Dr. Francis O’Connor, a retired colonel who studies heat-related issues at Uniformed Services University.
The lab also will be used by UConn’s athletic teams to help them prepare for hot-weather competitions and by individual athletes who have suffered heat-related illnesses to help them determine their new heat tolerances levels and develop a recovery plan.
Offensive lineman Hunter Knighton credits the institute with getting him back on the football field following a near-fatal heat stroke during an offseason practice at the University of Miami in 2014. His family donated money for the new lab.
“It’s been kind of a miracle for me,” said Knighton, who now plays for Tulsa. “I was just really blessed to be able to find the institute and Dr. Casa. They were able to guide me back.”
UConn’s Korey Stringer Institute and MISSION have teamed up to open one of the nation’s premier academic heat research labs at the University of Connecticut’s main campus in Storrs.
Outfitted with the latest in climate control technologies and human performance monitoring systems, the MISSION Heat Lab at the Korey Stringer Institute will allow researchers to explore new ways to improve human performance, endurance, and safety in the heat.
“Exertional heat stroke is a constant concern for athletes, active military personnel, laborers, and others who are called on to perform in hot conditions,” says UConn professor Douglas Casa, a national expert on heat stroke and chief executive officer of the Korey Stringer Institute. “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.”
The partnership between the Korey Stringer Institute and MISSION is a natural one. Named after a Minnesota Vikings lineman who died from exertional heat stroke in 2001, the Korey Stringer Institute (KSI) is one of the nation’s leading sports safety research and advocacy organizations specializing in heat illness research. MISSION is a pioneer in the development of temperature-controlling technologies for athletic and active accessories and gear. Co-founded by some of the world’s greatest athletes including Serena Williams, Dwyane Wade, Carli Lloyd, and David Villa in 2009, MISSION is dedicated to providing athletes, workers, and active individuals at all levels with solutions to maximize performance and optimize safety in the heat.
The MISSION Heat Lab at UConn features a first-of-its-kind cooling area that will allow researchers to monitor how the human body responds to different cooling treatments after experiencing heat-related stress and conditions.
“Rooted in sports and science, MISSION works with professional athletes, scientists, and medical doctors to deliver game-changing temperature-control technologies that enhance performance, safety, and comfort,” says Josh Shaw, founder and CEO of MISSION. “Since 2014, we’ve been working hand-in-hand with the KSI, and we are thrilled to sponsor the new state-of-the-art MISSION Heat Lab. For the next 10 years, the MISSION Heat Lab will set new standards in research, development, and testing to combat heat-related illness for athletes, workers, military, and active individuals – globally. As the market leader for cooling technologies, the new MISSION Heat Lab is yet another testament to our commitment to combatting the dangerous effects on everyone who lives, works, and plays in the heat.”
Located within UConn’s Gampel Pavilion sports arena, the MISSION Heat Lab is capable of creating a broad range of environmental conditions. High-end exercise bikes and treadmills along with advanced temperature controls will allow researchers to mimic specific environments for races, competitions, and events – from a hilly 10K New England road race on a cloudy 70 degree day with 40 percent humidity to a stifling hours-long military march in 100 degree heat under hot sun with 90 percent humidity. Radiant heat panels being installed later this year will further enhance lab simulations.
A full suite of continuous physiological monitoring systems will capture a test subject’s heart rate, internal temperature, skin temperature, and other vital signs hundreds of times per second. The test chamber also includes restroom facilities and resting areas designed to allow test subjects to remain in a designated environment for hours at a time without the need for outside breaks that might skew data regarding how their body is reacting to conditions.
Private donations supported the lab’s creation. One of those donors was Carole Knighton, whose son Hunter nearly died of exertional heat stroke during a 2014 football practice at the University of Miami. Hunter, whose body temperature was reportedly 109 degrees when he collapsed, spent two weeks on a ventilator in a medically induced coma, but ultimately survived the ordeal.
“This is a cause that is near and dear to my heart,” says Knighton, who lives in Fort Myers, Florida. “If it were not for the Korey Stringer Institute, my son would not be where he is today.”
With a desire to return to football, Hunter, now 23, visited the Korey Stringer Institute on several occasions to have his heat tolerance tested. In the process, he and his family learned a lot about heat illness and how it can be avoided. Winner of the 2015 Brian Piccolo Award for being the ”most courageous” football player in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Hunter now plays for Tulane.
Another donor, Jonny Class of Maryland, shares a similar story. His son, Gavin, suffered an exertional heat stroke during a Towson University football practice in 2013. Like Hunter, Gavin was hospitalized as his liver and other organs began to fail. His heart stopped and he was resuscitated, beginning what was to be a very long road to recovery that included a liver transplant. And like Hunter, Gavin was subsequently tested at the Korey Stringer Institute to make sure his body was ready to return to football.
“With their help, he was able to return to all physical activities and is now able to lead a normal life,” says Jonny Class, Gavin’s father. “The knowledge we learned from KSI was amazing. We have since started a foundation, YOLT (You Only Live Twice) to help raise awareness about heat illness and the importance of organ donation.”
University officials say the new MISSION lab will be a strong addition to UConn’s nationally renowned kinesiology program.
“This new state-of-the art lab will be one of very few such facilities in the U.S., and has some design elements that make it stand alone,” says Cameron Faustman, interim dean for UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources, which houses the program. “We are confident it will attract even more research funding, research scholars, and students to our campus. The cost of this initiative has been met with contributions from the University, college, department, private donors, and companies. This speaks not only to the recognized need for the types of research that this facility will support, but also to the confidence that many others have in our faculty members.”
The MISSION Heat Lab will be available for use by outside companies and organizations to maximize research opportunities in heat safety awareness, as well as other areas of temperature-related studies.