For pro athletes, staying cool can be the difference between gold and silver—this high-tech helmet prevents performance-hindering sweaty-head syndrome

By Sara Angle
August 03, 2015

When you're a sponsored Olympic athlete, no issue is too small when it comes to compromised performance. For U.S. Olympic champion and decathlon world record holder Ashton Eaton, the problem was simple: His head was hot.

You're probably familiar with that sweaty-head feeling you get after a steamy spin class or even a long run, so imagine that annoyance multiplied over 10 athletic events, and then over the period of two days. With back-to-back races, recovery time in a decathlon is crucial, and Eaton's sweltering head was taking over his cooldowns. His current methods of bounding back in-between events just wasn't cutting it. "Why does it feel good, after running, to pour a bottle of water over your head? I don't know the physiological answer, but the fact that it does feel better makes me perform better," Eaton said in a Nike press release.

His first-hand experience has scientific backing too; the Nike Sports Research Lab reported that the face is actually two to five times more sensitive to heat than other body surface areas. Plus, a study in the Journal of Athletic Training found that cooling your neck during exercise can help decrease your time to exhaustion, meaning you can work out longer.

Because keeping an athlete cool could mean improved performance, Nike created a fabric helmet with inner layers designed to retain cool water without leaking. A structural frame around the eyes keeps the cold portions in place and close to the skin. "The hood concentrates a cold mass out of an icebox, covering the face, head and neck, and allows a gradual and effective cooling of the head," Nike's VP of Special Projects Sandy Bodecker explained.

Even if you're not a sponsored Olympic athlete, though, no issue should be too small when it comes to compromised performance. And since most of us don't have a custom-made Nike helmet, your best bet may be to use a cool washcloth on your neck. (Also learn how to Take the Heat and Stay Safe During Humid Outdoor Summer Workouts.) So get out there and beat the heat, the old-fashioned way!

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