Are Air Conditioned Shoulder Pads The New Performance Enhancer?

Temperature Management System
Temperature Management System

Having Peyton Manning instead of Chad Pennington gave the Colts a significant advantage heading into last night’s game against the Dolphins. But from a keeping cool standpoint, the two sides were equal.

That’s because both were using the Temperature Management System, which uses compressors to blow cold dry air through the pads of the players on both teams while the they are sitting on the bench.

The idea came from University of Florida researchers in order to cut down on heat-related illnesses. It was further developed by the Williams Sports Group out of Jacksonville, which licenses the patent from the university and sells and leases the system to anyone who wants to use it.

Over the past couple years, the system has started to gain a following. Last July, a study commissioned by NFL Charities revealed that blowing air inside the uniform rather than on top of it can help reduce body temperature and significantly lower a player’s heart rate.

TMS is currently used by the Dolphins, Colts, Cowboys, Rams and Cardinals in the NFL as well as a host of college football teams, including Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina and UCLA.

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There’s actually a familiar face at Williams selling the Temperature Management System. It’s Billy Bates of Cowboys fame. Bates came in contact with Williams in 2004 while looking for shoulder pads for the high school team his kids were playing on. When he stopped by their offices, the company founder Fred Williams showed him the system.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Bates said. “Where was this when I was playing?”

Bates said he often suffered from heat-related illness and typically received IV’s at halftime and after the game. Sensing this was a good business to get involved in, Bates is now part owner of the company.

“There are more people playing football and players have gotten larger,” Bates said. “These players are getting overheated, they are cramping, throwing up and, in some cases, dying.”

Bates says that teams can buy or lease the system. Teams can also buy the shoulder pads with the tubing already in it or have their current equipment retrofitted so that the air bladder system can be put directly into the pads.

Bates wouldn’t say how much the TMS system costs, but did say that he believes it is “economically reasonable.” He says that any team that has used it has vouched for the fact that it reduces the amount of players that need to get IV’s, while keeping the teams fresher in the fourth quarter.

Said Bates: “Put it this way, teams who own the equipment don’t give it back to us.”

Questions? Comments?