West Chester firm may see product on sideline Sunday
John Faherty reports:
This Sunday, somewhere around 110 million people will sit down to watch the Super Bowl. Some will watch the game. Others will watch the commercials.
But the 250 employees of TSS Technologies in West Chester will watch in hopes that a TV camera will, at some point, focus on a San Francisco 49er wearing what looks like a funny oven mitt.
Don’t be fooled: The mitt, made and distributed by TSS, is scientifically engineered and designed to naturally cool athletes and others off quickly, allowing them to play better longer. If the nation sees the mitts in use on Sunday, it could provide a marketing bonanza for 60-year-old TSS.
“Oh yes, we will be watching the game very closely,” said Bruce Read, company president and chief operating officer. “We will be taping it and going over every frame.”
The CoreControl Cooling Glove mitts traveled a winding road to the Cincinnati suburbs. The idea began 10 years ago when two professors at Stanford University started wondering just how black bears manage to stay cool in the summer with all of that fur.
The two biologists, H. Craig Heller and Dennis Grahn, did a thermal scan of the animals and saw that their noses, feet and hands were always hot. That was how the heat was leaving their bodies. They figured humans were doing it the same way. And they were right. The CoreControl mitts just help the process work faster.
First, a brief lesson in mammalian thermoregulation. When a person begins to get hot, his or her body will work hard to cool it off. Blood will rush to the hands, feet and face in an effort to remove heat and bring the core temperature down. It happens through dilation of the arteriovenous anastomoses, which increases blood flow to the skin. The skin warms up, and that heat is then released into the environment and the body cools. It is why, when you are hot, your hands and feet get sweaty and your face gets red.
It is a beautiful system, and it works. A football player in the Super Bowl, however, would rather all this blood be used to feed muscles and promote circulation, not be working to cool the body down.
So the professors created a box with a battery-powered vacuum system attached to a mitt. Cool water is also circulating through the mitt to encourage the exchange of heat.
The Stanford professors believed in their product, but they were academics, not manufacturers or marketers. They needed help in production and sales. TSS Technologies and its subsidiary Dynavision heard about the product and offered to form a partnership with the professors. Now, TSS builds them; Dynavision does sales and marketing. The professors continue to tinker.
The San Francisco 49ers started using the mitts because of the team’s close relationship with Stanford. Coaches have coached at both places, trainers have trained at both places.
The team bought eight to 10 of the units. They use them during practices and games. They have brought them to the Super Bowl for Sunday’s game.
Dan Sellers, who does national sales and business development for TSS, said all athletes are now looking for a competitive advantage that will not mean a bad blood test. This is a performance enhancement through science, not chemistry, he said.
“Everybody likes the idea of getting faster and stronger without a needle,” Sellers said.
“We hear that a lot. This is all natural, no injections, nothing.”
Two NBA teams and the Stanford football team, of course, also use the devices.
Read said that kind of audience would be great at helping to move the product out of the sports arena and into public use. Each unit costs $895, and TSS is hoping to encourage weekend warriors, gardeners and golfers to buy them. He also sees possible uses by the military and firefighters.
Which is why everybody at TSS hopes the 49ers get spotted using them. A little time on TV would help a lot.