Athletes love a good wellness trend. Anything that promises to improve performance or give the slightest advantage to anyone who competes at the highest level of their sport find ears elite athletes and the Olympics – even (or especially) if it looks like a torture device.
In 2016, a craze was squatting: a technique in which suction cups were used for pain relief, making athletes like Michael Phelps look like they were fighting a giant octopus. This year, the restriction of blood circulation New York Times reported. Some swimmers and runners apply drawstrings to their arms and legs in the hope that it will increase their training.
The strategy was first developed in 1966 by Japanese powerlifter Yoshiaki Sato, but that’s just it Closed with high profile athletes last years. American swimmer Michael Andrew and American long-distance runner Galen Rupp both use blood circulation restrictions during Olympic training.
Like any good performance-enhancing trend, there is still little evidence of whether it works or how. Some studies show that athletes such as rugby, football and volleyball players increased their muscle strength and endurance after a few weeks of circulatory restriction training. It can increase strength by increasing muscle cell stress, which promotes muscle development, researchers speculate. But only a few research has been done on the technology. “There are only 9 studies on the subject that make concrete conclusions preliminary,” one 2015 author wrote review.
That has been the case for other tools, such as cupping and Kinesio tape, which athletes have stretched over their joints in an attempt to avoid injury or prevent pain. The benefits of such strategies are difficult to prove, and athletes seek to embrace them based on evidence from peer anecdotes or if they feel as they help – regardless of concrete evidence.
At the end of the day, maybe it’s great. The placebo is powerful, and the sport is as mental as it is physical. There is a danger that emphasizing high-level athletes so much on unproven tools could spread false information or interfere with good sports science, clinical psychologist and sports scientist John Sullivan, said Vice in 2018. Restricting blood circulation is not necessarily something people can or should do at home: devices are expensive, and it can be dangerous unless done correctly. But for top athletes under the constant supervision of sports scientists, as long as the strategy doesn’t hurt, believing it will help may really be enough to give them an advantage.