Scott McDonald, who is a Seattle-based sales manager for Phiten, says close
to 300 professional baseball players and scores of pro and amateur athletes in
other sports wear the company's products.
"I'd say about three-fourths of the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins
players use them," he says.
Some are even paid to endorse the products, including Red Sox starting
pitcher Josh Beckett and pitcher Joba Chamberlain of the New York Yankees.
The necklaces, which sell from around $25 to $40, have become so popular
that you can now get them in the colors of your favorite Major League Baseball
In the U.S. the necklaces are mostly associated with athletes, but that's
not the case in Japan and other parts of Asia where they were first introduced
by the company a decade ago, McDonald says.
"Our main customer base is regular people with shoulder and neck pain," he
Medicine or Superstition
So how can a product with almost no research to back up its health claims
become so popular?
Connecticut College professor of psychology Stuart Vyse, PhD, says the fact
that the company provides a scientific explanation for how its products work
adds to the appeal.
According to the company's web site, the necklace core features "micro sized
titanium spheres, as well as carbonized titanium" designed to "stabilize the
flow of electric current and increase your body's energy level."
Vyse is the author of the book Believing in Magic: The Psychology of
"People don't understand science all that well, so if you throw some science
speak at them it sounds plausible," he tells WebMD.
He says athletes are more likely than other people to be superstitious
because they engage in activities with highly desired outcomes that they can't
"Baseball players are particularly superstitious, in part because of the
culture and in part because there is a lot of down time in baseball where
nothing much happens," he says.
In other words, baseball players tend to have a lot more time to obsess
about a game that they have little control over, and more time to come up with
"These necklaces may be a clothing-related ritual, like the rally cap," he