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Commentary Sep 01, 2015

Russell Wilson, nanobubbles and celebrity tweets: Read with caution

WendyLeBolt-HeaderSome people will believe anything they read, especially if it comes via social media courtesy of their favorite athlete.

This week Russell Wilson, the outspoken quarterback for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, tweeted that he avoided a concussion after a big hit in last season’s NFC championship football game thanks to a specially processed bottle of “recovery water.”


That must be SOME water!

In his attempt to clarify any misunderstanding about his claim, Wilson said, “The brain consists of like 75, 80 percent water, so just staying hydrated, drinking the recovery water really does help.”

Sounds like he has it all figured out, right?

Somebody has convinced him it works, so he endorses it, probably has invested in it and certainly stands to make a few bucks off these $3 bottles of “electrokinetically modified” water which boast new “nanobubble” technology which somehow give it superpowers.

The product’s website claims that this beverage improves your body’s natural restorative process and even heightens your sense of well-being, citing “years of research, proving**” that this beverage goes beyond water to help you feel and function better every day.” No mention of concussions.

I’m thinking Wilson adlibbed on that one.

+READ: Concussions: Seeing double-standard

The company website does link to a scientific poster and a paper, published in June of 2013, in the Journal of Applied Physiology: Oral consumption of electrokinetically modified water attenuates muscle damage and improves post-exercise recovery.

I read the paper, the result of work funded by a grant from — you guessed it — the folks who produce the nanobubble water. In it, they do show that a very small group (20) of untrained and not currently training individuals underwent a single bout of biceps exercise designed to elicit muscle damage and inflammatory response. The nanobubble-consuming group did show some differences in muscle recovery measures than the plain old water group, but only at 48 and 96 hours after the excessive exercise.

Russell_WilsonIt’s the same recovery I’d expect if my training group simply replenished their protein stores, stretched, self-massaged with a foam roller and got their 8-9.5 hours of sleep that night. It’s Grandma’s secret recipe: eat right, exercise and get a good night’s sleep and everything will be better in the morning.

I get a little concerned when celebrities and high-profile athletes lend their names and their Twitter accounts to these products and supplements, testifying that they improve their strength or speed their recovery. All of a sudden, a panicked public grabs their credit cards and rushes for the online order form. It’s a $20-plus billion dollar business in this country, and there is very little regulation of what is in those products, the quantity or purity of the “active” ingredient or the truth of claims made on the label.

This one goes a step further when the athlete goes rogue and recommends the product for unrelated ailments. In this case: concussion. Neither the manufacturer nor the scientists performing testing have made this claim. Now things are getting dangerous. What’s to stop young athletes from slamming opponents, denying symptoms and dismissing consequences? ‘Hey Coach, no problem, I’ll just swig some of that juice and I’ll be fine tomorrow, okay?’

+READ: Morgan Brian passed concussion tests; should she have resumed play for USWNT?

Folks, there are plenty of ads out there and plenty of celebs who are being paid handsomely for their endorsement of what they actually may believe works for them: pills, powders, sprays, “natural products” and extracts. Or they’ll simply pose with the product (see Cristiano Ronaldo) and let you draw your own conclusions.

We’ve got to use our heads. If it seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is. That’s a message our kids need to hear because you can be sure they’re listening to all of it.

Molly Menchel (14) of DC United Women heads the ball away from Emily Dale (4) of Fredericksburg Impact during a W League game at Maryland Soccerplex, in Boyds, Maryland. United won 4-1.There’s not any short cut to fueling and training our bodies. And when we overdo it, there’s no magic potion to speed recovery.

  • Kids don’t need supplements. They need healthy, balanced nutrition throughout their day.
  • Kids don’t need expensive hydration. They need plenty of fluids, the best one is plain water.
  • Kids don’t need energy drinks, they need enough sleep for physical recovery.
  • Kids don’t need brain gym, they need enough rest to recover from mental fatigue.

If you’re worried about concussions, so are sport scientists all over the world. This is what they recommend: build strength, practice good technique, develop awareness, and use reason. Not a recovery drink in sight.

Sounds like a good recipe for most anything. And it fits nicely into the family budget.

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