Olympic athletes face heat challenge in Paris

As the Paris Olympics approach, athletes will face additional challenges due to soaring summertime temperatures. Following record-breaking heat in 2023, Meteo-France predicts warmer-than-normal conditions this July. In line with Paris 2024’s commitment to host the greenest Games ever, there will be no air conditioning in athletes’ rooms, necessitating careful attention to body temperature during training and competition.

“Paris can be very hot and miserable, similar to Tokyo during the last Olympics,” said Craig Heller, a Stanford University biology professor specializing in body temperature regulation. High environmental temperatures significantly impact performance.

Stanford University, known for its strong Olympic athlete representation, has seen medallists at every Games since 1912. In Tokyo, Stanford-affiliated athletes won 26 medals, following 27 in Rio 2016. Researchers like Heller study body temperature regulation, and collaborations with Silicon Valley have introduced innovative tech into sports.

Heller co-invented CoolMitt, a device worn like a mitten that extracts heat from the body, cooling blood before it circulates back to the heart and muscles. It can be used during breaks in training or competition to prevent hyperthermia and improve performance by allowing higher work volumes.

The CoolMitt targets glabrous skin, areas without hair that facilitate heat loss. Inside the mitt, the palm rests on a cooled water-perfused pad, drawing heat out efficiently. Tyler Friedrich, Stanford’s associate athletics director for applied performance, emphasizes the importance of regulating core temperature for optimal performance. Traditional methods like ice baths and cold towels are less effective than CoolMitt, which athletes report helps them maintain energy throughout their performance.

“The CoolMitt helps athletes feel as energized at the end of a game as they do at the beginning,” Friedrich noted, enhancing both psychological and physical performance.