Why are top athletes so addicted to unscientific alternative medicine?

Leading athletes train with a scientific approach, but some athletes receive

alternative medicine with poor scientific evidence. Nicholas B. Taylor, Research Fellow, Exercise Physiology and Pulmonology, University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, explains why top athletes believe in alternative medicine, even though it is not scientifically validated. Mr. explains.

Olympic athletes excel at their sports but are susceptible to unproven alternative therapies

Kyle Chalmers , the Australian representative of swimming, won the silver medal in the men's 100m freestyle at the 2021 Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Winning a medal by updating his personal best made Australia a big hit, but at the same time, 'countless red round marks on his back and legs' appeared on TV and became a hot topic.

The round marks on Mr. Chalmers' body were the marks of 'cupping'. Cupping is a folk remedy in which a small glass cup is placed on an injured or painful area and the air inside the cup is evacuated to inhale the meat. You can get rid of stagnant blood and toxins. ' However, the effectiveness of cupping is even able to relieve the pain, effect of or remove the toxin or early injury of the recovery is that it will not be recognized research have been announced.

Chalmers who actually receive cupping

In addition, Germany's beach volleyball player Katrin Holtvic was also talked about because he was taping too strangely at the 2012 London Olympics. This taping is called 'Large Fan Spider', and it is claimed that it 'has the effect of straining the muscles and accelerating the recovery of injuries', but of course it has been scientifically proven that taping has such an effect. Is not ...

Taylor asserts that all alternative medicine is pseudoscience in that it 'pretends to be science, even though it is not scientifically proven.' However, despite the scientific evidence that alternative medicine is of little effectiveness, there are many advocates of alternative medicine among top athletes.

'Human evolution has evolved to choose a'mental shortcut'named heuristic,' Taylor said. Heuristics are not theoretical, but methods that are close to the correct answer based on experience and intuition. Advocates of alternative therapies use heuristics to seek high rewards with relatively small investments.

And since athletes are always looking for a high training effect, even 1%, they are vulnerable to the overstatement of alternative medicine. For example, in an experiment conducted in 2000, when a bicycle racer was given a drink containing just a fragrance, calling it 'a drink containing a glucose supplement,' the performance was 4% compared to the control group. It is reported to have improved. In the Olympic world, where the difference between a gold medal and a silver medal is less than 0.5 seconds, the placebo effect can dominate performance. It can be said that alternative medicine is used here.

'In the last decade, anti-scientific movements have become more active around the world, and attacks on scientists have reached unprecedented levels. Dissatisfaction and distrust of conventional science, opposition to social norms, or Some people may rely on alternative therapies because of both, 'says Taylor, who may be attracted to alternative therapies because they have no scientific basis.

In addition, Taylor points out that alternative medicine advocates have the aspect of sponsoring athletes. Athletes who have become famous will have more followers on SNS, so they can be expected as influencers. By sponsoring athletes, companies can give their products an image of success, fitness and beauty.

Also, while many athletes get regular jobs while playing sports, some of them cover most of their income with advertising fees. For example, American athletes only get $ 15,000 to $ 37,500 in prize money when they win medals at the Olympics, and when they become British athletes, they get no prize money at all. I can't get it. Even if it is an alternative medicine that has no scientific basis, the current situation is that it is an advertising tower for athletes to survive.

'It's understandable that top athletes seek alternative medicine to improve performance even with placebo effects,' Taylor said, but points out that some of the alternative therapies are clearly at risk. For example, cupping has been reported to have the side effect of skin burns, and chiropractic and acupuncture treatments have also been reported to cause serious injuries.

Of course, there is a risk of side effects even with scientifically established therapies in Western medicine. However, doctors weigh the benefits and risks of treatment before deciding whether to choose it as a treatment. If the benefits of alternative medicine remain on the placebo, it's hard to justify the potential risks given the waste of training time due to injuries and side effects, Taylor said.

'Alternative therapies do not replace modern medicine and require a clear line to limit them to mild illness and sports performance. Pseudoscience is for both evidence-based practice and science education and literacy. That's a big obstacle. That's why alternative medicine is a potential burden in sports, and we need an educational program to help people distinguish between science and pseudoscience in every aspect of society, not just sports. ' He said.

in Science, Posted by log1i_yk