BBC has a news story up called Why are so many Olympians covered in large red circles?, about the appearance of Olympic athletes with perfect circular red marks on their bodies.
I saw the pictures, and thought “Cupping? Surely it can’t be!”
Unfortunately I was wrong, and it seems like the pseudo-science of cupping has now become a fad among Olympians
The mark of an Olympic athlete, at least at Rio 2016, seems to be a scattering of perfectly round bruises. Swimmers and gymnasts, particularly from Team USA, are among those seen sporting the mysterious dots.
No, not paintballing misadventures or love bites – they are the result of a practice known as “cupping”; an ancient therapy where heated cups are placed on the skin.
Cupping is a treatment from the medieval times (and earlier), where the causes for diseases were not understood, and it was believed to help treat a number of ailments. There is no scientific evidence for it being effective at treating anything.
The BBC writes:
The technique, which is a form of acupuncture, is done by lighting flammable liquid in a glass cup.
Once the flame goes out, the drop in temperature creates suction which sticks the cups to the body.
The suction pulls the skin away from the body and promotes blood flow – and leaves those red spots, which typically last for three or four days.
Of course, it doesn’t in any way or shape promote blood flow – that is an entirely undocumented claim. Those red spots are bruises.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Olympic athletes are willing to try anything in order to win. But cupping?? What’s next, using leeches for bloodletting??
Edit: Orac has of course written a great blog post on cupping: What’s the harm? Cupping edition