Air-conditioned shoulder pads help Colts' Manning beat heat

September 23, 2009
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Peyton Manning is the new cover boy for a unique product—air conditioned shoulder pads. And given the Indianapolis heat and humidity these days, the new product might be just as useful in the convertible Lucas Oil Stadium as it was in Miami Monday night.

On Monday against the Dolphins, Manning donned the Temperature Management System pads, which utilizes compressors to blow cold, dry air though the pads—while players are sitting on the bench or in the locker room.

The idea came from the birthplace of Gatorade—the University of Florida. The product was taken a step further by Jacksonville-based Williams Sports Group.

Williams Sports Group licenses the technology from the university and sells or leases the system to anyone who can afford it. WSG wouldn’t divulge the price of the pads, but NFL insiders said the price tag to outfit an entire team in the pads and the accompanying system could run an easy $30,000.

If you’re running an NFL franchise, the cost is probably no sweat. Your local high school team might want to start conducting a few car washes and bake sales to afford the pads and accompanying system for next season.

The demand is likely to be high in places like Texas, Florida and California. Williams officials said the air-conditioned shoulder pads cut down on heat related illnesses and reduce the need for IVs players are administered to inject fluids into their bodies at halftime and post-game.

Players using the new a/c shoulder pads can hook up to a compressor on the sidelines, and cool, compressed air is pumped through a network of tubes in the pads, reducing the temperature of the body’s core.

The semi-mobile cooler at the heart of the system looks like an old still, yards of copper tubing coiled inside what looks like a small chest freezer on wheels. Before a game or practice, the cooler is filled with a mixture of water and ice. Compressed air enters the cooler at about 140 degrees and exits the other end at about 34 degrees. By the time it travels through a manifold and hose to a player’s pad, it is about 45 degrees.

The Temperature Management System is being used by the Dolphins, Colts, Cowboys, Rams and Cardinals in the NFL as well as several college football teams, including Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina and UCLA.

A Manning endorsement will make the idea seem really cool—and sales prospects white hot.

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