Performance Jewelry Goes Bust

Drew_BreesWe thought the power bling would eventually go bust and it seems that it has. News reports today say that Power Balance is filing for bankruptcy because it must settle a $57 million class action lawsuit filed against the California-based company. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of customers who claim that the jewelry didn’t, um, perform as promised and the company could not provide the proof needed to support that its hologram-infused bracelets provide any benefits.

Power Balance used a cadre of professional athletes, including NFL stars like Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford and Vernon Davis to tout its wares.  As of today, all of the pros were still present on the company’s website. According to news reports, the company was unable to provide evidence that their product worked, forcing them to pay millions to dissatisfied customers and destroying their credibility. While no other performance jewelry firms were included in the lawsuit, it’s probably only a matter of days, weeks, months until they go under as well.

Here’s what we recently wrote about the athlete bling earlier this year.

Does performance-enhancing jewelry work? New research suggests they may provide a psychological rather than physiological boost.power balance

If you watch any pro sports like NFL, MLB, NBA then you’ve seen the pros sporting ropey necklaces, bracelets and pendants as part of their team “uniform.” The performance jewelry is made by companies like Power Balance, Phiten and Q-Link who sell millions of their items to weekend warriors to world champs who are trying get a performance advantage.

The jewelry has caught on primarily due to the impressive roster of paid professional celebrity endorsements.  To name just a few…in the NFL, Drew Brees and Mathew Stafford; NBA players Derrick Rose, Paul Pierce and Lamar Odom; and MLB’s top pitchers, Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum, wear performance jewelry.

Made from nylon or silicone and embedded with “charged” titanium or holograms, the manufacturers claim that their products can increase your cell’s capacity, improve flexibility, balance, and strength, reduce stress, improve circulation and much more  by altering your body’s energy field.

However, the new lucky charms appear to be more “power of suggestion” and they lack the scientific proof of improved performance. There is no objective evidence to suggest that they work, and the manufacturers focus on marketing their paid professional endorsers rather than conducting evidence-based science to show that they work.

A recent report in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal, written by exercise physiology scientists from the University of South Carolina, reveals that much of information about performance jewelry is false and possibly fraudulent.

The worst form of evidence to support a product is based on personal experience. “Just because a certain exercise or product ‘worked for me’ doesn’t translate to universal use by others,” the authors write.

Cliff LeeIn one study, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse recently tested the Power Balance bracelet using a randomized controlled trial. Using 42 collegiate athletes, the researchers tested performance on four different tests of strength, flexibility, balance, and power. The athletes performed each test twice, once with the Power Balance bracelet and once with a placebo bracelet. The order of the bracelets worn was randomly assigned, and neither the participant nor the staff administering the study knew what bracelet the participant was wearing.

The authors found no significant difference in flexibility, balance, strength, or vertical jump height between the Power Balance and placebo conditions. In fact, test scores were higher on the second trial for each test, no matter if the participant was wearing the Power Balance or placebo, suggesting that the results seen in the product demonstration videos were the result of practice or warming up.

In the end, the jewelry acts as a placebo effect.  If one believes that the accessory makes them stronger, faster or fitter, then that’s likely to translate into better performance. The lack of evidence doesn’t seem to deter millions of weekend warriors to world champs to put their faith in their sporty bling.

–Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD


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