This is why swimmers have circular bruises on their backs 👇🏻
5 minute read · Issue Number 68 · May 14th, 2021
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Last week, I ran a poll asking what sport shall we cover today. Over 14% of you voted, and the most popular answer was swimming!
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What technology shall we discuss in next week’s newsletter?
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I’ve always been curious about the circular bruises that swimmers have on their backs.
Today we’ll talk about it. What is it, and why swimmers use it?
The History of Cupping Therapy
It was back in the Olympics in Rio in 2016 when Michael Phelps — the greatest swimmer of all times (GSOAT) — attracted the media's attention for having mysterious circular red bruises on his back and shoulders.
It turns out that this mysterious practice is better known as cupping, and it’s a recovery technique.
While it became trendy in sports after 2016, this alternative medicine can be traced back thousands of years to China, Egypt, and the Middle East to heal various illnesses such as asthma, arthritis, hypertension, and headaches.
Today, cupping therapy can treat blood disorders, high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression, among other uses.
How does it work?
Cupping therapy works by heating small glass cups and placing them on the skin to suck and stretch tight muscles. The process only takes about five minutes.
The cups lift the skin off the muscle or bone, allowing the blood vessels to expand and let blood flow to the targeted area.
Then, the therapist pulls the cups from the body, and this loosens and relaxes the muscles.
Circular bruises appear because the capillaries underneath the cups break with the suction.
Why athletes use it?
They use it to help their muscles speed up the recovery process and increase performance.
When swimmers have little time between events and need to recover quickly, many turn to this therapy. Others may use it as a common practice and have it in their routines.
Check out this quick video of Olympic swimmers explaining this practice:
Does cupping actually work?
A few studies suggest it may work, but actual evidence proving whether this practice works or not is still questionable.
Athletes who compete on the highest levels will do whatever it takes to improve their chances of winning.
So even if there’s a slight chance it works, athletes will keep going for it.
🎙 Halftime Snack of the Week
Optimizing Human Performance
My most recent podcast episode features Quin Sandler, CEO & co-founder of Plantiga – a startup looking to optimize human performance, resilience, and recovery by monitoring and analyzing athletes’ biomechanics.
In our chat, we snacked about:
Skills and career development
How Plantiga’s product helps athletes
The future of human performance
It’s a fun one!
Read the transcript here.
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