ESPN Mag examines rise of performance jewelry

Fri, Oct 8

Roll your eyes. Go ahead. Get it out of your system. Because when we tell you pro athletes such as Ryan Howard, Paul Pierce and David Ortiz believe, much as Wonder Woman did, that a bracelet gives them superpowers, you're going to think they've lost their minds. Or joined a cult. Or been paid off.

Illustration by Justin Wood

Truth is, many pros are convinced that a colorful silicone trinket -- made by an upstart company called Power Balance -- makes them better. And it's not just Power Balance they're buying into. It's Phiten necklaces and Q-Link pendants, each of which comes with similar extraordinary claims. They maximize energy! Improve balance! Relieve stress!

So yeah, roll your eyes. Then brace yourself for something even more bizarre: The jocks who believe in the potency of performance jewelry may be onto something.

That's not to say the products work for the reasons their makers say. It's hard to find a scientist who can make sense of Power Balance's claim that the electrical frequencies emitted by a mylar hologram disk in each bracelet "resonate with and respond to the body's natural energy field," maximizing balance, strength and flexibility. But if there's one point that new age devotees and wonks in lab coats agree on, it's this: Never underestimate the power of belief. When an athlete believes in a bracelet's magic, the brain can enable the body to do thrilling things. Science calls it the placebo effect. You'll call it amazing.

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