JOURNAL OF SPORTS SCIENCE & MEDICINE
http://www.jssm.org
 
Letter to Editor
 

CAN THE POWER BALANCE® BRACELET IMPROVE BALANCE, FLEXIBILITY, STRENGTH, AND POWER?

John Porcari, Rachel Hazuga, Carl Foster, Scott Doberstein, Jordan Becker, Dennis Kline, Thomas Mickschl and Chris Dodge

Department of Exercise and Sport Science, Room 141 Mitchell Hall, University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, La Crosse, WI 54601, USA

Received   07 December 2010
Accepted   15 December 2010
Published   01 March 2011

© Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2011) 10, 230 - 231

 

Dear Editor-in-chief

Athletes are constantly searching for something that will give them a competitive edge. Performance jewelry is one of the latest products on the market designed to improve athletic performance. The most common claims are that wearing this performance jewelry will improve flexibility, balance, and strength. There is considerable marketing of these products, including testimonial evidence by high profile athletes, in support of the purported benefits. In demonstrations designed to validate the performance enhancing benefits of these products, however, companies typically conduct the testing in the following sequence: The first trial is done without the bracelet on and the second trial is performed with the bracelet on. Invariably, subjects perform better on the second trial. This brings into questions whether the improvement on the second trial is due to 1) a benefit of the bracelet, 2) the fact the subjects were warmed-up (Maud et al., 2006a; 2006b), 3) subjects being habituated to the task (Benson and Friedman, 1996; Wright et al., 2009), or 4) a placebo effect (Beedie and Foad, 2009).

One of the most popular performance enhancing bracelets currently on the market is sold by Power Balance® (www.powerbalance.com). The Power Balance® bracelet has two dime-sized holograms; one on either side of the bracelet. The holograms within the Power Balance® bracelet are designed to "resonate with and respond to the natural energy field of the body". This purportedly improves flexibility, balance, and strength. To our knowledge, no randomized, double- blind, placebo trials have ever been conducted evaluating the validity of these claims. Thus, the purpose of this study was to evaluate whether wearing of the Power Balance® bracelet can improve trunk flexibility, balance, strength, and lower body power.

Forty-two NCAA Division III athletes (22M: 20.1 ± 1.4 years, 1.82 ± 6.4 m, 82.0 ± 12.6 kg; 20F: 19.5 ± 1.3 years, 1.66 ± 6. 8 m, 63.2 ± 8.1 kg) completed four tests: trunk flexibility, balance, strength, and vertical jump. The trunk flexibility, balance, and strength tests were the same tests that are presented on the Power Balance® website (www.powerbalance.com/test-video). The vertical jump test was added as a test of lower body power. Subjects performed two trials of each test, without warm-up: During one trial subjects wore a Power Balance® bracelet and for the other trial subjects wore a placebo bracelet. The order of bracelets was randomized and the testing was conducted in a double-blind fashion. Neither the subject nor the examiner knew which bracelet the subject had on for each trial.

Comparisons between the Power Balance® and placebo bracelet are presented in Table 1. There was no significant difference in flexibility, balance, strength, or vertical jump height between the Power Balance® and placebo conditions. Comparisons between Trial 1 and Trial 2 scores are presented in Table 2. Flexibility, balance, strength, and vertical jump height were all significantly greater for Trial 2 compared to Trial 1, regardless of which bracelet was worn for the second trial.

This study found that under the testing conditions used in the current study, there were no significant performance benefits when wearing the Power Balance® bracelet compared to the placebo bracelet. Trial 2 scores were significantly greater than Trial 1 scores for all of the testing measures. Because the order of bracelets was randomized and balanced, these improvements were attributed to the fact that subjects were either: 1) more warmed-up (Maud et al., 2006a; 2006b) or 2) habituated to the task (Benson and Friedman, 1996; Wright et al., 2009). In either case, these findings help to explain why the public demonstrations of this type of product appear to have a beneficial effect on flexibility, balance, and strength.

There are many ways to design a study such as this. This study was specifically conducted in the fashion it was, in order to mimic the way the tests are conducted by companies who try to show that their products enhance athletic performance (i.e., Trial 1 without the bracelet and Trial 2 with the bracelet). Thus, this study demonstrates that t the holographic bracelets do not work as advertised. It should be noted that while this study investigated the Power Balance® bracelet, it is presumed that results inves-tigating other performance enhancing jewelry would be similar, under similar testing circumstances. To fully evaluate any potential benefit of thes products, future studies, in addition to being conducted in a randomized, double-blind, placebo fashion, should incorporate a warm-up prior to all tests, as well as a sufficient number of trials so the learning effect is removed from all testing measurements. Additionally, even though most manufac-tures claim that the improvement in performance when using holograms is instantaneous, future studies may want to have subjects wear the bracelet for a longer period of time to see if there is any effect under those circum-stances.

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REFERENCES
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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS  
This study was funded by the American Council on Exercise, San Diego, CA.