Magnets attract loyal following among athletes

The power generated by magnetic fields has fascinated people for centuries. Many attempts have been made to utilize magnetic energy as a cure for medical ailments. These efforts have also ignited a $300-million-a-year industry in the United States, much of which involves athletes.

Magnetic therapy is the application of magnetic devices to the body as a means of achieving health benefits. Practitioners of this alternative medical practice claim success in wound healing and fatigue by improving circulation. The greatest notoriety has come from suggested anti-inflammatory effects and subsequent pain relief.

The first athletes to utilize magnetic therapy on a large-scale basis were golfers. It started with the use of copper bracelets. Although not magnetic, the color change produced on the skin was believed to indicate benefit. Magnets soon followed, with the use of more elaborate metals including stainless steel, titanium and tungsten carbide.

The use of magnetic bracelets, necklaces and inner soles has spread to all sports including football, basketball, tennis and even bull riding. This has led to success in the commercial market outside of sports.

“The use of titanium magnetic bracelets and necklaces is so widespread in baseball that it has become more of a fashion statement than a therapeutic device,” said TJ Saunders, head athletic trainer of the Connecticut Tigers.

Numerous controlled studies have been performed comparing the application of actual magnets and placebo magnets to similar populations of patients. Results indicate no beneficial effect of magnets. Scientists believe the magnetic fields generated are too weak to provide benefit.

The other part of this equation is that many patients have experienced subjective improvement of their symptoms and no harm has been demonstrated by using magnetic therapy.

Considering the options available to athletes for improved performance, magnets are a safe approach.

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