Why do so many athletes turn to extreme and unproven remedies? | Psyche Ideas - Deepstash

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Athletes are prime targets for marketing rhetoric

Athletes are prime targets for marketing rhetoric

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is highly prevalent in sports, mainly for treating musculoskeletal issues. 50-80% of athletes use alternative therapies compared to 40-40% of the general public.

Athletes often need effective recovery but prefer to invest in unproven and often potentially harmful interventions. For example, Michael Phelps, at the 2016 Rio Games, had visible circular bruises across his back and shoulders. These purple marks resulted from cupping, a Chinese medicine that involves covering sites of soreness with small glass suction cups.


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People are conditioned for the ‘quick fix’

People like to take mental shortcuts that lead to quick but imperfect solutions. This is also visible when we make health and fitness decisions.

Proponents of some alternative therapies exploit this economy heuristic. They offer great rewards for comparatively little investment. Athletes are more susceptible because they pursue any potential advantage to win, regardless of how alternative it might seem.


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Placebo products can have powerful psychobiological effects

Placebo products can have powerful psychobiological effects

Some experts think psychological advantages in sports are more important than physical ones.

Sixty-seven per cent of elite athletes said they would happily engage in a placebo-mediated deception if it effectively improved their performance.


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A dissatisfaction in or distrust of conventional science

Many athletes trust the nutritional opinions of their peers over qualified experts.

However, this is a symptom of a broader societal problem. The past decade has shown anti-science movements and attacks on scientists worldwide. Therapy can become popular because it goes against an established order.


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Athlete sponsorship

Athlete sponsorship

US athletes receive only $37,500 in prize money for winning an Olympic gold medal. British athletes receive no prize money.

This cause many athletes to strike sponsorship deals with marketing agencies, often using their large social media followings to advertise.


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Professional athletes rarely train and recover in isolation

Professional athletes are supported by a network of physicians, physiologists, nutritionists and psychologists.

Interventions are generally discussed as a group, but sometimes choices are made by the performance director or coach.

A survey of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine found that 88 per cent of physician members had prescribed at least one type of CAM for sports medicine pathologies in the preceding year, mostly chiropractic, acupuncture and yoga.


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