October 13, 2008
They look like accessories that wouldn't be out of place on a guy following Phish around the country. They are the firm, thin, rounded necklaces with various designs that have been worn by American baseball players for the past five years. If you've watched any of baseball's postseason — particularly a game involving the Dustin Pedroia (right) and the Red Sox — you have doubtlessly seen more of these chains than those goofy Rayhawks.
So why do so many baseball players seem to be wearing them? And how do they differ from normal necklaces?
To answer such a mystifying query, Big League Stew has extended its hand through the Yahoo! Sports bloggerhood and enlisted the help of the former Fourth-Place Medal Investigative Unit and current mystery solver of all things pigskin over at Shutdown Corner.
The necklaces being worn by many Red Sox players and other stars including Johan Santana, Jim Thome and Justin Morneau are called Phiten necklaces. Developed in Japan, the nylon-coated titanium necklaces are intended to promote pain relief and enhance performance through improved circulation and stress reduction.
Pitcher Randy Johnson is credited with bringing the Phiten trend to the United States after discovering the necklaces during an All-Star trip to Japan in 2001. They were further popularized in 2004 when many of the World Series-winning Red Sox team could be seen sporting the titanium wares around their necks. Now, Red Sox ace Josh Beckett is one of Phiten's main endorsers.
There is no medical proof the Phiten necklaces actually work, though. The FDA does not approve the therapeutic claims made by the company and many doctors have said there is no indication that titanium affects performance.
Whether the necklaces actually help or are instead an example of the placebo effect, we may never know. All that matters is that in a superstitious sport like baseball, where players don't wash batting helmets during hitting streaks and have elaborate pre-pitch routines involving clapping and batting glove adjustment, the Phiten necklaces only need to make the players think they work.
And judging from the Phiten's prevalence in Major League locker rooms, we'd say big leaguers don't care too much about FDA approval.
If you have any baseball-related queries, write the SCIU at firstname.lastname@example.org.