I’m a big baseball fan. Even though none of my teams are in the World Series this year, I’ve been tuned in as much as my busy work schedule has allowed. It’s hard not to notice that pretty much all the pitchers this year (and more than a few of the hitters) are wearing flashy cord-like necklaces.
Now, not being much of a fashion devotee, I just figured it was another trendy flourish. With the number of players sporting tatoos, piercings, and weird facial hair, the necklaces seemed like just another goofy thing. Until I came across this.
It turns out that the necklaces are being used as a performance-enhancing tool, and that the titanium ions are believed by some to aid recovery and prevent injury. This is almost certainly a fanciful claim.
A rule I like to live by as I evaluate non-conventional medical claims is that if the claim being made requires you to believe in a biological process nobody ever found before, that claim is probably untrue. In this case, the manufacturers are claiming that there is an energy flow that relaxes muscles and creates some mythical equilibrium that can somehow be manipulated with titanium molecules. In fact, muscle physiology is very well understood, and is controlled by a delicate balance of inflammation, a bunch of mineral nutrients, and other small molecule mediators. Based on our scientific knowledge today, titanium really doesn’t have anything to do with it.
Of course, people selling these necklaces claim that titanium is extensively researched for its health benefits. But what they don’t tell you is that none of these studies are designed to look at wearing a titanium necklace (or eyeglass frames) to help with athletic performance. Instead, the cited research is looking at things like titanium hip replacements and dental implants.
Don’t kid yourself, the company that sells these things knows that they are on thin ice here. This is why you’ll not find any health claims on their US website, only on their overseas versions or through third party distributors. They probably are well aware of the multimillion dollar lawsuit against a similar company about five years ago.
If you are on a $12M per year contract, wasting $40 on a placebo necklace is probably not all that big a deal. The rest of us who get weekly paychecks smaller than a Lotto payout might want to think twice about it. And Major League Baseball really shouldn’t be licensing their logos to this kind of hokum.
Oh – and finally, a note to Phiten: if you are going to claim that your product is able to prevent injury, it’s a really poor marketing strategy to feature a guy who just had a potentially career ending surgery in your sales video.