A Skeptical Look at Power Balance Products

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A Skeptical Look at Power Balance Products

I’ve had a couple of folks write in and ask about Power Balance devices. It looks like this may be an example of a quack product and company. But, it’s even worse than that. As one reader wrote to me:

The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund started a partnership with the pseudo scientific product Power Balance. The OCRF directly profits from the sale of the bracelet with the ORFC and Power Balance printed on it at $12.50 a time, this is serious money as millions of the bracelets are sold all over the world. … I think that this is the start of a worrying trend, if a organization (sic) this big will take money from crank product sales, then others will follow suit and they may choose a worse pseudo science. I believe the OCRF are eroding science credibility … they have a huge scientific advisory committee who lend weight to this product as well. As yet after a dozen e-mails I have no response from anyone at the OCRF.

Harriet Hall, M.D., has written a scathing review on Power Balance at the Quack Watch Web site. Here’s what Dr. Hall has to say about the OCRF / Power Balance partnership:

Marketing Strategies

The marketing is pure genius. If I were a professional scam artist, I don’t think I could come up with anything better. The company has an impressive trick demonstration that easily fools most people.

They spout a lot of pseudoscientific hooey that sounds impressive to the scientifically illiterate, but they are careful to make only vague claims that the Federal Trade Commission can’t object to.

The harmless products are inexpensive to manufacture, but the company charges enough to afford a money-back guarantee and still make money. They package the cheaper cards and stickers in multiples so they can charge more, but the prices are still low enough that the average person is willing to take a chance.

Who knows what is actually in the products?

If it were my scam, I’d put in any old hologram or none at all. No one is likely to investigate your production line to see how you get all those “beneficial frequencies” into the Mylar.

In August 2010, Power Balance added another clever dimension to its marketing—a “partnership” with the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund to raise money for ovarian cancer research. On August 23, 2010, OCRF Web site stated:

Ovarian Cancer Research Fund is teaming up with Power Balance, maker of revolutionary Performance Technology wristbands, in an exciting new partnership to raise funds for the cause

OCRF was approached by Power Balance when founders Josh and Troy Rodarmel, whose mother lost her battle with ovarian cancer in 1998, chose to join forces to help fight a disease that has affected them personally. . . .

On August 3, Power Balance celebrated the launch of the on-going partnership in style, with a glittering V.I.P. “All In For The Cure Poker Party” at Drai’s nightclub in Hollywood’s W Hotel. Power Balance athletes Derrick Rose and Lamar Odom were joined by some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment to raise funds for OCRF.

As part of the launch, Power Balance unveiled two specially designed OCRF wristbands, available at http://ocrf.powerbalance.com. 50 percent of proceeds from every band sold will be donated directly to OCRF.

In addition, beginning August 11, Power Balance will host an online art auction to benefit OCRF. The auction features 30 exclusive signed works of art depicting a selection of athletes, created by local California artist, Brian Bent. The athletes featured include: Drew Brees, Chad Ochocinco, Bode Miller, Julia Mancuso, Derrick Rose, Matthew Stafford, Shaquille O’Neal, Matt Kemp and Lamar Odom. Bids are placed through the Power Balance website, with 100% of proceeds benefiting OCRF .

It seems to me that many people will regard this “partneship” as an implied endorsement of the bracelets.

On August 23, when Dr. Stephen Barrett phoned OCRF to complain, he was told that the staff sees nothing wrong with accepting the help as long as the device is not marketed with health claims.

During the conversation, Barrett noted that the word “revolutionary” in the first paragraph looked like an endorsement to him. Apparently in response to his complaint, the word “revolutionary” was removed and this disclaimer was added to the end of the article.

While OCRF appreciates the support of all of its corporate supporters, any reference to a specific commercial product or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement by OCRF of the product or service or its producer or provider. The views and opinions expressed in any referenced document or on any referenced website do not reflect those of OCRF.

The Bottom Line

Tell me you use the Power Balance card and it makes you feel better, and I can readily believe you. Tell me your performance improves when you carry it, and I will believe you. But that won’t convince me that the improvement has anything to do with bioresonating frequencies in the holograms—or even with the cards themselves.

It’s like the tooth fairy. Tell me money appears under your pillow, and I will believe you. But that won’t convince me that the tooth fairy did it. The tooth fairy phenomenon is easily explained by human psychology and parental behavior.

The Power Balance phenomenon is easily explained by suggestion, confirmation bias, the placebo response, and other well-known aspects of human psychology that conspire to persuade people that ineffective things work.

Whether Power Balance bracelets do more good than harm would be difficult to measure. Modern versions of an amulet or rabbit’s foot (without harm to rabbits), they can elicit a placebo response, giving people confidence and possibly making them try harder. They are not exorbitantly expensive and even come with a money-back guarantee. On the other hand, for many people they will be a waste of money and, if enough people buy them, it can be argued that the collective amount could certainly be used for a more noble purpose.

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