Titanium necklaces in baseball: Home run or strikeout?

Posted on December 22, 2011

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Dateline: 28 October 2011 // Posted by: Anneliz
Source: NewsChannel 5, KSDK (St Louis, Missouri)

Story: “Titanium Necklaces Become Sensation”

Summary: Ten years ago, Major League Baseball players from Japan began sporting titanium necklaces during play. These necklaces have now become all the rage in the United States, not just among Major League Baseball players but other professional athletes and the general public. The company that manufactures the product, Phiten, has a line of products; necklaces, bracelets, athletic tape etc., laced with titanium. These titanium necklaces claim to make people better athletes by increasing energy and allowing a quicker recovery.

A Johnny Mac’s employee remarked that wearing the titanium necklace gives them energy while retaining a calm. Dr Erin Shannon who practices “energy medicine” took time to test and comment on this fad by having someone hold the bracelet as she put force on their arm; she had them try to resist that force. Dr Erin concluded by saying that the titanium laced necklaces are a form of energy medicine and has the capability to help “people feel better or heal faster”.     

Why is this PseudoNews? The titanium nanoparticles found within the Phiten products are unlikely to have any impact on sports performance or any type of physiological impact on the human body for that matter. Phiten claims to be scientifically proven to increase performance, restore flexibility and lessen fatigue, due to the way in which the material “restores the energy flow, or natural bioelectric current, by restabilizing the flow”. Supposedly, the product changes bioelectric currents at the cellular level creating an emission of energy which causes the oxygen to be carried by blood cells more quickly and muscle cells to fire more intensely leading to an increase in energy and a decrease in the recovery time the human body needs.

 

Unless there is an electric current running through wires hooked to the metal or the metals are magneticized, having the metal near or on the skin is not going to change the flow of energy within the human body. First of all, the titanium and gold found within the bracelets aren’t magnetic and even if they were, they wouldn’t be nearly strong enough to create any type of change.

More importantly, the energy flow that is altered by these products is non-existent. Since there does not appear to be any sort of energy flow emitted by the human body, the carrying capacity of red blood cells cannot be manipulated as the Phiten products claim to be doing.

The only way in which energy may be transmitted within the human body is through nerve impulses which may only be influenced by electrical currents or strong magnetic fields, both of which are absent within the Phiten products. Biologically, there is no plausible mechanism found within the products that influence the human body and that would therefore enhance sports performance.

What features of pseudoscience are on show? The main way in which these titanium products are pseudoscientific is in the testimonials, which constitute a reliance on anecdotal evidence. The Phiten Company uses professional athletes in order to advertise their products. Additionally, the testimonial from Dr Erin does not constitute scientific data. The one person ‘experiment’ that Dr Erin conducted cannot be generalized to the public nor can the testimony from the Johnny Mac’s employee. These are mere personal experiences and are not generalizable.

Furthermore, the article attempts to support the claim that the Phiten products are effective through an uncontrolled experiment which holds no scientific truth. The article does not consider any other possibility for why the product alters performance aside from physiologically altering the body’s energy.

Another way in which this is pseudoscientific is through expectancy effects.  When someone puts on the Phiten products then they expect them to work, they expect to have more energy and for their nerves to be calmed as the product claims. Furthermore, the company continues to look for evidence that supports their products claim in the form of confirmation bias. It is plausible that the reason that the bracelets have an effect on athletes is due to a type of placebo effect. Having the bracelet may give the athlete a psychological calm and a sense of control over their performance. The Phiten products act as a primer affecting the athletes’ state of mind. However, the article claims to physiologically change the energy flow of the human body, something that is highly implausible. Therefore, the Phiten products do not contain any scientific underpinnings.

Since an athlete’s performance is greatly affected by the state of mind, the Phiten products have the capability of having a psychological impact beyond the extent of the placebo effect. With this claim, it may be argued that the Phiten products do have some sort of scientific truth. However, neither the article nor the Phiten Company makes a claim that the products work in such a manner.

The moral of the story: There is no sound scientific evidence stating that the titanium laced products have any physiological effect on sports performance as the article and Phiten Company suggest. However, these products may have a profound psychological effect.

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