USA TODAY: Ironclad cures for pain? Athletes put their faith in power of magnets
By Sal Ruibal Section:
Denver Broncos linebacker Bill
Romanowski KO's quarterbacks, then sleeps like a baby on a magnetic
Yankees pitcher Hideki Irabu throws
a wicked split-finger fastball with dozens of magnets stuck to his body.
Senior PGA Tour golfer Jim Colbert
swings for the green with dollar bill-sized magnets strapped to his
Magnetic therapy is the hottest
trend among professional athletes. But the idea of using magnetic fields
to increase blood circulation in injured tissue and encourage healing
by stimulating the nervous system goes back thousands of years to ancient
Greece and Egypt. The original Olympic athletes might have used magnets.
And in the same way that today's
top athletes influence fashion and language, their eagerness to embrace
alternative healing techniques is influencing the public: U.S. consumers
will spend more than $500 million this year on magnetic pads, bracelets,
shoe inserts, back wraps and seat cushions, the magnet companies say.
Pro Bowl linebacker Romanowski
began using magnets seven years ago while a member of the 49ers but
didn't take them seriously. The team trainer had recommended them, but
it was not until Romanowski had offseason surgery that he adopted the
idea. "I'm a believer, definitely," he says. "The first
time I tried them, I got pain relief. It wasn't mental. I know it wasn't
mental because I know my body."
Because they know their bodies,
it's natural that top athletes would be attracted to alternative therapies,
says Dinnie Pearson, a Cranial-Sacral therapist with the Mind/Body Center
in King of Prussia, Pa.
"Athletes use a lot of mental
imagery, visualizing the correct muscle movements for their sport,"
Pearson says. "They can use that same powerful tool for healing,
contacting injured areas to focus on that tissue to help it in the natural
Gregg Westwood, a somatic psychotherapist
at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colo., says, "Athletes are
more courageous about taking the kinds of risks that lead to understanding
how their bodies work." San Diego Padres trainer Larry Duensing
says few of his players use magnets on a regular basis, but some, notably
outfielder Chris Jones, have tried them to rid soreness. "Its
just another tool available to them," Duensing says. Although the
Padres aren't big on magnets, they have turned to acupuncture.
The Chiba Lotte Marines, lrabu's
former team in Japan, attended spring training this season with the
Padres. The Marines' trainers, observing the big-league operation and
trainers, introduced the Padres to acupuncture. General manager Kevin
Towers became a convert when acupuncture helped alleviate his back pain,
and he had acupuncturist travel with the team earlier this year. The
team credits the therapy with helping second baseman Quilvio Veras get
over hamstring problems. "I think it's great," Towers says.
"I know it worked on me. It blocks the nerve endings and takes
the pain away. It's very relaxing. I'd go back." Not understanding
how an alternative therapy works is no roadblock for jocks in search
of relief, but it can be for the federal government.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration
have not approved magnetic therapy, but the National Institutes of Health
is investigating the phenomenon.
The NIH Office of Alternative Medicines,
which was created only five years ago, is funding a study of magnetic
therapy at the University of Virginia's School of Nursing.
Broncos safety Steve Atwater
isn't waiting for the scientists to bless his magnets. " I don't
know what it is, but it works, " the 30-year-old, seven time Pro
Bowl player says. "I figure it can't hurt me, and it may help me."