The 2016 Rio Olympic games kicked off last week and theres one question thatis already burning at sports fans: What the hell are those red dots all over some of the athletes?
Torpedo man Michael Phelps, winner of 19 Olympic gold swimming medals, appeared on Sunday night covered in these strange love bites. Since then, keen-eyed viewers also pointed out a number of other swimmers and gymnasts from the US with these bizarre circles.
Despite one tweet suggesting that Phelps had just fallen asleep on his medals, theyre the result of an ancient practice called cupping, which seems to be the latest fad among the US Olympic team.
It works by placing heated glass cups over the skin. This creates suction thatincreases blood flow to the skin. In theory, this relieves aches and pain after strenuous exercise. The red-purple marks are essentially bruising caused by the suction breaking small superficial blood vessels under the skin.
Many of the US team swear by this to ease their muscles woes after practice. Speaking to USA Today, gymnast Alex Naddour said: Thats been the secret that I have had through this year that keeps me healthy. Its been better than any money Ive spent on anything else.
In the past, its also gained popularity among the Hollywood elite, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Victoria Beckham, and Jennifer Aniston.As for the scientific evidence behind this faddish exploit, the jury’s out.
There are very few peer-reviewed scientific reviews on cupping. Nevertheless, medical professionals have called it everything from pseudo-scientific to laughable utterly implausible and just another ingenious way of relieving the rich and gullible of their money.
David Colquhoun, professor of pharmacology at University College London, recently told the Independent: Theres no science behind it whatsoever. Theres some vague conceptual connection with acupuncture, and is often sold by the same people. But how could it possibly do anything? Its nonsense.
They went on to ask him if he thought it could give US athletes the edge in winning some medals at Rio 2016, to which he responded: Not at all. If anything theyll have a slight disadvantage because theyre wasting time getting cupped.
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