As students from the Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Jaymes Williams (Product Design) and Laura Hutchison (Fashion & Technology) developed a unique Cooling Vest that was used by the amazing athletes who are part of Team Canada’s Wheelchair Rugby team, competing in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Often, those with spinal cord injuries lose the ability to self-regulate their body temperature, and can overheat. These specially designed vests gave these extreme athletes an edge over their competition, and offered that extra push they needed to go for Gold!

Phase Adaptive Cooling Wear is a continuation of this project. Working to continue research and development, we’re exploring better ways of helping athletes regulate body temperature.

Problem

Athletes suffering from spinal cord injuries are often faced with the problem of regulating body temperature. Quadriplegics have limited ability to sweat and are prone to overheating during rigorous physical activity, and wheelchair rugby is perhaps the most physically demanding sport in the Paralympics.

Traditional methods to help athletes cool off have involved sprays, misters, drinking iced beverages and applying cool, wet towels to skin surfaces. When it comes to the needs of wheelchair athletes, their specially designed wheelchairs allows only certain parts of their body to be cooled.

While cooling vests exist in other sports, there was a need to develop a design that would enhance performance and function for athletes; while working with the constraints of a wheelchair.

Solution

Featuring a bladder that has been laminated on the inside using radio frequency welding and injected with a phase changing material that can freeze at higher temperatures, in this case 12°C; ideal for cooling down body temperature without inducing shock and stay frozen for up to 2 hours.

With a coated taffeta shell, poly-cotton lining, and hook-and-loop closures, the vest is comfortable, durable, and easy to wear. The vests are designed to be ideal for those with and without physical disabilities.

With not only functionality in mind, the vest is designed to better reflect the aggressive, gladiatorial nature of wheelchair rugby and the elite male and female athletes that participate in the sport. With an aesthetic that reflects who they are as athletes, the vests not only help in their physical game, but also their mental game.

CBC Radio One — The Early Edition, Interview August 24, 2016

Maintaining thermoregulation in elite athletes, and in particular athletes with spinal cord injuries, is essential to their health and athletic performance.

Having the partnership with Jaymes and Laura with the support of Wilson School of Design at KPU was very helpful for us as a team. They are the experts in design and were able to come up with a product that fits properly, looked great and most importantly helped cool our athletes while they were in competition at the Rio Paralympics.”

Melissa Lacroix, Sport Physiologist, Canadian Sport Institute