(Editor's note: This is part two of an article on the true effects of sports performance products. To read Part One, click here.)
We've all seen it on athletes ranging from beach volleyball to the NFL. It comes in all sorts of colors such as pink, blue, and red. But what does it really do? One major company claims that its "texture and elasticity are very close to living human tissue" and therefore can help to re-educate the neuromuscular system, reduce pain, optimize performance, prevent injury, and promote improved circulation and healing. Does the tape really do what it claims or is it just placebo?
An article in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research from February 2013 states "The kinesiotape technique was not found to be useful in improving performance in some sports-related movements in healthy college athletes." Another article from the Journal of Athletic Training November-December 2012 found "kinesiotape does not enhance anaerobic muscle function measured by endurance ratio. The kinesiotape also did not affect circulation or volume of the gastrocnemius (calf) muscle in a healthy population."
Lastly, the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation February 2013 concluded that "kinesiotape does not produce a short-term improvement in muscle performance in young elite soccer players." Despite all this, many athletes swear by the benefits of kinesiotaping. So once again, if someone thinks it is working and they play better with it, why not use it? When it comes to athletes we'll do whatever it takes to help them score a goal or hit a home run. And if that means they prefer red tape instead of the blue, then make sure you stock up on red.
We've all seen how the rope necklaces have taken over baseball. Now it seems that one necklace isn't enough, as players are wearing two and three at a time.
Phiten is the main company that produces these necklaces along with other sports medicine products containing their Aqua-titanium technology. Their website doesn't make any specific claims but refers you to the Society of Aqua Metal Research page. This webpage touts the health benefits of Aqua Titanium. One study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2010 looked at the benefits of Aqua-titanium compression garments on performance and recovery from high-intensity exercise in soccer and hockey players. They found that the performance gains were likely trivial but did find significant improvement in joint range of motion during recovery.
However, they stated that garment feel may be responsible for these gains and not the titanium. Other than this study, there is no research that really supports any benefit of wearing these necklaces. So besides looking cool with your baseball uniform, there probably isn't any physical benefit from wearing a titanium necklace. Maybe what someone should really study is the necklace's effect on batting average.
Powerplate, vibrogym, powrx, these are some of the companies that produce vibration exercise equipment. Serena Williams, Justin Morneau, and Madonna are just a few of the athletes and celebrities who attribute their physique and performance to the benefits of these vibration machines. In theory, the vibration can improve muscle performance and recovery post-exercise. There is also a theoretical adverse effect from vibration as noted from workers exposed to long term vibration from machinery; ie. jack hammer. From a personal perspective, it gives me a headache from even a very short 30 second bout of exercise. So, is it just a new fad or is there really some science behind it?
An article in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research from April 2012 showed improved explosive strength and postural stability in adolescent female basketball players following a 15-week whole-body vibration training program. However, another article in the same journal from September 2012 concluded that whole body vibration alone or in combination with low-intensity resistance exercise did not seem to induce significant enhancements in force and power. Overall, the research shows potential sports performance benefit from whole body vibration training but no concrete evidence to date.
A January-February 2011 Journal of Athletic Training article showed that whole body vibration training administered before eccentric exercise may reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) via muscle function improvement. However, an article from the European Journal of Applied Physiology from February 2009 showed no benefit of whole body vibration on running performance recovery following a high intensity interval training session. Once again, the research shows conflicting results.
So, let's try some vibration exercise. It may have some benefit, it probably won't cause any harm, and if it doesn't give you a headache and you don't mind paying for it, give it a try and see if it works for you.
As we can see, the claims of sports performance products don't have hard science to back them up. But as we all know, athletes are willing to try anything and pay just about any price for any kind of advantage. So if a placebo effect is worth the money and you really like the pink socks, then go for it. And let me know if it shaves any time off your next 10k.