Ah, July… the heat, the humidity, and the forty-yard dash in full pads. Can NFL preseason be far behind? Of course not. But to combat the very real risk of heat stroke, some teams are turning to medgadgets, specifically, a pill that can relay core body temperature to trainers and coaches.
HQ Inc acquired the patent and licensing rights from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to market the pill in the mid 1980s. “Prior to CorTemp, there was a German-made pill called the ‘Heidelberg capsule,’ which was on the market for 30-plus years,” she says. Core temperature telemetry has been traditionally used in research studies, Smith says, including detecting hypothermic and hyperthermic conditions in astronauts during space flight. Other examples of research applications have included tracking circadian rhythm over phases of the menstrual cycle,1 recording the core temperatures of search and rescue divers during extreme conditions,2 and determining core body temperature in patients who have chronic fatigue syndrome.3
What’s new, she says, is the technology’s spread to sports settings, a trend that she links to growing concern about heat illness in athletes. Because wireless temperature monitoring is costly, Smith predicts that CorTemp won’t be used to track large numbers athletes in mass sporting events; the disposable sensor pills cost about $40 apiece, and the handheld monitor costs about $2,500. Wireless temperature monitoring is most likely to be used during activities that involve great heat exposure, she says, such as football, tennis, auto racing, endurance events, and occupational activities such as firefighting.
Smith acknowledges that rectal temperature measurement is the gold standard in gauging core body temperature in the sports setting. The ingestible sensor is unique, she says, because it allows researchers and clinicians to gauge core body temperatures in the field.
We think this could save lives, as well as aid John Madden’s line diagrams (when these pills come with GPS transceivers.) Someday, drug testing could be done remotely, too.
The device has an interesting caveat: you can’t get an MRI with one of these things moving through your system. That’s not such an issue with normal folk, but may come into play with these athletes.
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