In 1982 Yoshihiro Hirata, an alternative medicine practitioner, founded Phiten, the company that sells his titanium-infused products. The necklaces first gained prominence in Japan, where they are still popular with many athletes. According to the company, the necklaces and bracelets work by stabilizing the electric flow that nerves use to communicate actions to the body. “All of the messages in your body travel through electricity, so if you’re tired or just pitched nine innings, the electricity isn’t flowing as smoothly as it can,” said Joe Furuhata, a Phiten spokesman. “Our products smooth out those signals.” These necklaces are designed to relieve stress, increase blood circulation and relax your muscle tension? Phiten claims that its necklaces, bracelets, and titanium-infused clothing produce an electrical charge that relieves pain, increases energy, and speeds recovery. Actually, the necklaces are more of a phenomenon than a secret in sports circles, even though there is no independent research to back up the company's claim of medical benefits.
While many sports stars believe the necklaces give them luck, not everyone is convinced. Many doctors and scientists say there is no scientific evidence supporting Phiten’s theory. “There’s no science and physiology,” said Dr. Orrin Sherman, chief of sports medicine at the New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases. “There’s just no way the chemical structure of the body can be influenced by magnets that small. It’s all superstitions with no scientific basis.”
Sherman also noted that when people interact with magnets far more powerful than the Phiten necklaces, like the magnets in a CT (computerized tomography) scan machine, for instance, they do not report any of the effects pitchers and quarterbacks say they receive from the necklace. But while the physiology behind the necklaces doesn’t hold up to scientific scrutiny, that doesn’t mean they do not help. Athletes are a superstitious lot.
Craig Biggio, didn’t wash his batting helmet for an entire season. Uh...yuck.
Wade Boggs would only eat chicken before games.
Athletes love all manners of hokum and voodoo. If the players think they are getting an advantage from the necklace and that gives them increased confidence, then they do in fact get a positive boost from the product.
Phiten necklaces have been around for a little while, but are encountering increased publicity. If you've watched a baseball game, especially one with the Red Sox (yuck again) in the last year, you've probably seen the utilitarian jewelry around the neck of the pitcher.
The necklaces, which sell from around $25 to $40, have become so popular that you can now get them in a variety of colors and themes including the one I just ordered to swim with-Hello Kitty.
In the U.S. the necklaces are mostly associated with athletes, but that's not the case in Japan and other parts of Asia where they were first introduced by the company a decade ago.
So how can a product with almost no research to back up its health claims become so popular? Well Phiten provides a scientific explanation for how its products work adds to the appeal. According to their web site, the necklace core features "micro sized titanium spheres, as well as carbonized titanium" designed to "stabilize the flow of electric current and increase your body's energy level."
Sounds good, huh?
If you think so then after you purchase a Phiten necklace I encourage you to also purchase a book called Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition.
I read it while wearing my Hello Kitty necklace and it's quite an enjoyable read.