Athlete name: Antony Cotterill
Date of birth: 13.02.80
Sport: Wheelchair tennis
Tested the wheelAIR: During the Australian Open January 2018
Antony spends a lot of his time travelling to very warm climates for competitions as a professional wheelchair tennis player. Luckily enough, we got to know Antony just before he left for the Australian Open through a connection within the Great British Paralympic Association. He agreed to put the wheelAIR cooling backrest cushion to the test in January 2018 in the sweltering summer heat of Melbourne and Sydney (reaching 37 degrees). He used the wheelAIR to stay cool whilst he was there. We asked him about his challenges with overheating and his experience with the wheelAIR – here is what he had to say.
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Antony’s current challenges with overheating
Due to nature of my disability, a spinal cord injury, I can’t regulate my body temperature. Whenever the weather is mildly hot I have an issue with overheating. I feel uncomfortable with anything over 21 – 22 degrees.
This causes all kinds of issues – fatigue, dizziness, nausea, inability to concentrate. These symptoms get more apparent when I’m training, but I also experience them day to day.
Because I am so hugely affected by the heat – this impacts my performance and training schedules. Majority of events I take part in for tennis are outdoors – so I tend to prefer them to be in the cold. However, I’m often in the US or Australia and the heat there tends to be very intense.
Solutions before the wheelAIR
Depending on the severity of the heat, I have used a variety of different solutions to cool down since my injury. The solution I use the most is a water spray. I bought a big industrial spray (the type that you use in greenhouses to spray pesticides) and I fill this with ice and spray it at regular intervals during training and matches. If the heat is very severe, like in Australia, I will use ice towels. Also, I sometimes will cool my hands in ice buckets of water.
Cooling my hands in ice isn’t very effective because it makes my hands too freezing for when I am playing tennis. In terms of the water spray, I am unsure how well that it actually works to cool my body. It feels great, but I think it may psychologically make me feel cooler rather than actually improving my performance. There has been no official testing on this so I am unsure.
During the test period, the wheelAIR improved Antony’s athletic performance 100% of the time.
Antony’s wheelAIR experience
I took the wheelAIR to Australia, and it was on my wheelchair the entire time from when I landed to when I took off again. It was incredibly easy to install onto my chair and use throughout the 2 week period. I didn’t put it on my sports wheelchair because I wasn’t exactly sure how it would affect my performance, I hadn’t tested it beforehand.
The temperature was ridiculously hot. When we were inside, in an air-conditioned room, I could feel that the backrest was cooler. However when outside, it was less noticeable.
However, by using the wheelAIR before and after training and matches, my performance improved every time.
Although I didn’t notice a direct benefit to my health from using the wheelAIR, this is perhaps because I wasn’t using it on my sports chair. It was so hot that it was unbearable whilst playing. I continued to use other solutions for cooling whilst playing – because the wheelAIR was on my day chair.
I found it offered the same support and comfort as my current backrest – my current backrest is already made from memory foam and is very comfortable.
(wheelAIR comment: most backrests come in open cell foam or have no foam at all.)
The only real problem I found with the wheelAIR was that when outside the air blowing out was not as cold as I may like.
All in all, the wheelAIR worked well. If the fans could have gone a bit quicker and blown a bit harder, that would have been amazing. When outside, I found that the air coming from the backrest was not quite as cold as I would have liked. However, I’m aware that I was testing the wheelAIR under the harshest conditions possible. It probably wasn’t a true reflection on how effective it would be in slightly less intense climates. In terms of appearance, the cushion looked very good and was a good size – it blended well into my chair.
(wheelAIR: the wheelAIR blows ambient air, just like a regular fan does. So bear in mind that in extremely hot temperatures, air blown onto the back will be slightly warmer than in cold temperatures. However, since hearing Antony’s feedback, we have increased the fan speed on all units so that they are able to blow four times faster. We take consumer feedback very seriously and try our hardest to deliver the most effective cooling product possible.)