It’s far from unusual given the current plethora of televised sport (World Cup Football, NRL, AFL, Tennis) to see brightly coloured stretchable tape adorning athletes bodies in a variety of intricate patterns. Indeed this type of tape has proved very popular since its appearance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. As a Sports Physiotherapist, I have always wondered about the effectiveness of such tape. After all, the stretchable tape seems to really only have contact with the athletes skin which isn’t exactly rigidly adhered to the underlying structures it’s meant to influence.
A recent 2013 European Journal of Physical Rehabilitation Medicine. article concluded that “although the tape has been shown to be effective in aiding short-term pain, there is no firm evidence-based conclusion of the effectiveness of this application on the majority of movement disorders within a wide range of pathologic disabilities. More research is clearly needed.” A further March 2014 Systematic Review article in the Journal of Physiotherapy concluded that the most up to date evidence does not support the use of this intervention in the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions.
Clearly food for thought.
Sometimes, patients symptoms improve or resolve with unconventional treatments suggested by unqualified “advisors” or “gurus”. Despite all the research to the contrary, the patient or athlete will swear by this course of treatment. I recently assessed one such patient who attributed his absence of shoulder pain symptoms to the removal of milk from his diet. How to handle this? Tell the patient how wrong he is, and the absence of any research or valid theories to support his unconventional treatment? Its time’s like these that I smile to myself, reflect on this great placebo video and kindly pat the patient on the back and let them know I’m here next time if they need any help.
Well the genie is well and truly out of the bottle with Power Balance bands being exposed as “not meeting their marketing claims” and having no actual therapeutic effect. Indeed Power Balance Australia have been exposed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) who has ordered Power Balance Australia to refund all customers who feel they were misled by the supposed benefits of Power Balance bands. The wristbands were touted as providing better balance, strength and flexibility by working with the wearer’s “natural energy field”. This whole episode is simply another example of the old adage: “if it sounds too good to be true, it is!”
The interesting part of the whole Power Balance Band is the willingness of elite and recreational athletes to believe marketing hype in the hope of obtaining a competitive advantage. One needs to question these athletes self belief in their own training and preparation systems if they are so willing to accept that a piece of rubber worn around the wrist would improve performance. Let’s hope this is a lesson in “healthy skepticism” and a move forward for the Sports Science profession, so easily pushed aside by clever marketers.
Read more on ACCC and Power Balance Australia
The latest craze amongst elite sports stars in Australia is the “Power Balance Band”. According to the website, www.powerbalance.com.au, Power Balance Bands performance technology “uses holograms embedded with frequencies that react positively with your body’s natural energy field to improve balance, core strength and flexibility”.
So are these claims credible? Have they been researched, and published in peer reviewed sports science journals? Indeed if one is to read the news media (AdelaideNow) , then one may be skeptical.
If one visits the Power Balance website, evidence seems to be given in the form of testimonials. In scientific terms, this is very low level evidence and of poor reliability. While not being able to discount the “testimonial” claims of improved balance, core strength and flexibility ( one only has to read research on the power of the placebo to realise many will claim a benefit from any intervention) I for one am skeptical until I can read published research- in particular a double -blind study – to assess the reliability of the manufacturers claims. A search of PubMed on 5.4.10 did not reveal any scientific studies on the Power balance bands.