Case Study

Michael Kerr – Staying cool during Wheelchair Rugby training with WheelAir

WheelAir User

Michael Kerr

Athlete Name: Michael Kerr
Date of birth: 13.10.1982
Sport: Wheelchair rugby (World champion and double Paralympian)
Condition: C6/7 Spinal Cord Injury
Tested the WheelAir: When training in UK for wheelchair rugby tournaments

Our brand ambassador Michael lives for sport and spends a lot of his time training for wheelchair rugby tournaments and exercising. Michael has been putting the WheelAir cooling backrest cushion to the test since he received it in November 2017. He constantly uses the WheelAir on the back of his day chair to stay cool – including before and after training. We caught up with him to ask about his challenges with overheating and his experience with the WheelAir – here is what he had to say.

Michael’s current challenges with overheating

Because of my spinal injury, I have quite a bit of experience with overheating day-to-day, depending on what I am doing (despite living in chilly Scotland!). I overheat when it is hot outside or when I am in a hot venue/ gym without air conditioning.

I find overheating very, very uncomfortable. It’s also very hard to control. It limits what I can do – if it’s a hot day for instance, I’ve got to watch I don’t sit in the sun for too long or don’t do anything too excessive. I have to make sure I keep in the shade. It’s really tiring – not just because it exhausts my body, but because I’m constantly having to think about it.

It also makes me feel very unpleasant when exercising or in a game – which is very distracting when playing rugby. After becoming very hot, it is very hard to get my body back to a normal temperature. For example, if I’m playing an intense game, it often takes a best part of an hour to get back to a normal temperature. So say I’ve got 2 or 3 games in a day – my body temperature is constantly changing – like a seesaw. The day is made up of heating up and cooling down. In reality, there is no down time between games. I’m trying to eat and get fluid on board whilst simultaneously regulate my temperature. This is very, very tiring on my body.

Michael's Solutions before the WheelAir

Before the WheelAir I was mainly spraying my with water and using ice packs to keep cool whilst playing. These solutions do make you feel better… but it’s like a short hit – it doesn’t stop me being hot, it just makes me feel cooler and more pleasant. You can only spray yourself during a gap in play. But when you start spraying yourself you need to keep doing it – you almost feel a bit reliant on it. It’s quite intrusive as the water can make me feel quite clammy. Also, the wheels and ball gets wet and slippery which can affect the game.

Michael feels more in control & supported with the WheelAir. It has his back!

Michael's WheelAir Experience

When I just started working with WheelAir last year I was actually pushing around Strathclyde park and it was roasting hot – I had just given my WheelAir prototype back that I had been testing. I just remember really missing it…it had already become something I relied on.

Now I have one full time and I use the WheelAir before and after training and matches – I have it on the back of my day chair. I stay in my day chair until the last second and use it for pre-cooling.. and then transfer back from my sports chair to my day chair at all breaks. The WheelAir shortens cooling times – preserving energy that I need for playing rugby. It certainly has improved my athletic performance! But the WheelAir has been great not just for when i’m playing sport, but in everyday life too.

My body feels noticeably cooler after using the WheelAir. The main benefit is you can start pre-cooling any time and no-one would even know. For example, before you start training, or before you get out in the sun, you can turn it on.

I noticed straight away that it was much more comfortable than backrests I have used before. You can feel and see the quality difference. The WheelAir has definitely helped improve my posture – it has made me sit in a more upright position. It’s quite funny because when you are sat in a bad position for quite a long time it just becomes the norm, so it feels weird when you are back in a good position! Posture is very important – because if you’re going to spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair the last thing you want is bad form in your shoulders, neck or back. People with spinal injuries, especially if they are quite lean, have very prominent spinal columns. WheelAir helps with this because the extra cushioning takes the pressure off the spine. It prevents bruising, pain and marks that can come from that.

The WheelAir is very easy to use and install. It is also very easy to travel with – you just unclip the fan box and stick it in your case!

It ultimately makes me feel more in control. It is kind-of a mental thing, knowing that you have it there for when you most need it. The WheelAir quite literally has your back!