London Wasps and Leeds are breaking all the rules of rugby. They are illegally using their hands to grab an advantage on the rugby pitch. How can they get away with such an obvious foul? They are using the latest in temperature regulation to improve recovery.
"Equal to or substantially better than steroids … and it's not illegal," is how Stanford biology researcher Dennis Grahn explained the latest process in muscle recovery on standford.edu.
Grahn stumbled on the process accidentally while studying how mammals naturally regulate their body temperature (picture how a bear or your pet dog stays cool in summer despite its fur coat) and it is now taking hold in the sports world with a heat extraction device called ‘the glove’.
Mammals have vein networks known as AVAs (arteriovenous anastomoses) that work to help quickly regulate body temperature (for bears many mammals on their paws – humans call these hands and feet, noses and tongues).
The discovery was great but did not mean much for sports physiology until 2009 when it was found that muscle pyruvate kinase ( MPK), an enzyme that muscles need in order to generate chemical energy, was highly temperature- sensitive and shut down at higher temperatures. The challenge was to cool these temperatures down to allow the MPK to work properly and the AVA’s were the method.
"Your muscle cells are saying, "You can't work that hard anymore, because if you do you're going to cook and die,'" Grahn said.
The results are pretty amazing. Grahn pointed to one study where a regular ‘gym rat’ increased the number of pull-ups during a session from 180 pull-ups to 620.
While the ‘glove’ is ideal to taking advantage of the process it is not required. At your next rugby match take a cooler with cold water and soak your hands at breaks!
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