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Power Band bracelets 'a scam' professor says

A wrist band worn by athletes to improve performance is nothing more than a good luck charm, according to a professor of sport and exercise who ran a small trial to test claims made by the company that makes them.

Company admits there's no science to support its claims

A wrist band worn by athletes to improve performance is nothing more than a good luck charm, according to a professor of sport and exercise who ran a small trial to test claims made by the company that makes them.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant wears a Power Balance bracelet on his wrist during an NBA basketball game with the Detroit Pistons in Los Angeles on Tuesday. ((Jae C. Hong/Associated Press))

On its website, Power Balance features video footage of athletes holding their arms out and resisting downward pressure in trials with and without the bands.

The Wisconsin professor ran similar tests comparing the performance of 42 athletes wearing Power Balance wristbands and silicone versions from Wal-Mart and said he found no difference.

"I think it is a scam," he said. "It has absolutely nothing to do with the bracelets. It is all in people's heads," said John Porcari, professor of exercise and sport science at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Authorities in Australia agree. They say the California-based company behind the wildly popular wristbands and pendants has no business claiming that they improve balance, strength and flexibility.

And they even got Power Balance to admit it.

The company wrote: "We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims." It also agreed to give refunds to customers who believe they were cheated.

The company's admission, however, has hopped across the globe since an agreement with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission was announced on Dec. 22.

It was an answer to what many who saw the ads wondered: Do the colourful silicone bands actually work?

Critics railed against the company on Twitter and those who had believed in the bracelet's power.

The company unleashed a torrent of its own tweets, playing off the word "admit."

In one, it said: "Power Balance Admits products have been worn during the last world series, nba finals and super bowl champions!"

Bracelet fans unmoved by admission

Fans insist the bands have helped their game.

"Our trainers swear by it," Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley wrote in a message posted on his Twitter page.

Soccer star David Beckham is reported to be a fan of the Power Band bracelet. ((Jeremy Piper/Associated Press))

The company began selling bracelets in 2007 embedded with holograms that were purportedly designed to interact with the body's natural energy flow.

Since then, the colourful wristbands, which sell for $29.95, have become ubiquitous, donned by Los Angeles Lakers' Lamar Odom and English celebrity soccer star David Beckham.

They have also been worn by celebrities, including actors Robert De Niro and Gerard Butler.

The company sold $8,000 of merchandise in its first year and expects more than $35 million in sales in 2010.

Company relies on testimonials, not science

Power Balance, for its part, doesn't claim to have science on its side, said Adam Selwyn, a spokesman for the Laguna Niguel, Calif.-based company.

Rather, it relies on testimonials from famous athletes and users to tout the products' effects. The company says it pays some athletes for the right to use their images wearing the bracelets, including Odom and Shaquille O'Neal.

Los Angeles Lakers centre Shaquille O'Neal is paid for endorsements of the Power Band bracelet. ((Donna McWilliam/Associated Press))

Josh Rodarmel, one of the company's co-founders, said in a statement he knows there may be skeptics. "We're not trying to win over every person in the world," he said.

Ralph Reiff, program director at St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis, said maybe a third of the hundreds of professional and amateur athletes who train there wear the wristband or an imitation.

The program even thought about putting its logo on the products and handing them out, he said.

But officials decided against that because they couldn't find enough reliable research to back up the company's claims about giving a biological boost to performance, he said.

"I couldn't look in the mirror and 100 per cent say [it's] a product I can put my brand reputation behind," said Reiff, a certified athletic trainer.

Reiff said he believes there's no reason to think the wristbands could produce a biological benefit, and that any benefit is purely psychological.

"It's just like a pair of lucky socks," Reiff said. "It's a lucky charm, and if you believe in it, then it's excellent."

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission took action after an independent review panel in September found that the Power Balance claims were misleading and breached the therapeutic goods advertising code.

The Therapeutic Goods Complaints Resolution Panel demanded that Power Balance drop claims from its website that the bands improved flexibility, balance and strength.

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