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Cupping therapy fails to impress India’s sports scientist Danny Deigan

The image of legendary American swimmer Michael Phelps taking to the pool in Rio de Janeiro during the recent Olympics with big purple spots on his back and shoulders has piqued the interest of the world.

The alternate healing technique is known as cupping, which involves putting hot cups on the body, and is believed by certain athletes like Phelps to help relieve aches and pains besides improving blood circulation throughout the body.
Not convinced
Apart from Phelps, athletes like US gymnast Alexander Naddour and swimmer Natalie Coughlin also were spotted with red marks on their body from cupping.
However, Danny Deigan, the Indian football team’s sports scientist, is not entirely convinced by the therapy as he says there is not enough evidence to prove it helps.
“We want everything that we do to be evidence based. Finding out what’s going to be the benefit of doing something, whether it’s going to be helpful for us — that’s where my role as a sports scientist comes in,” Deigan said.
“If there’s evidence out there to prove that cupping really does help, we would be involved. I would need to know more,” said Deigan, who is in Mumbai helping the Indian team train ahead of their friendly against Puerto Rico on September 3.

The dark spots on Michael Phelps shoulders and back were due to the cupping therapy. Hots cups were placed on his major muscles to help blood circulation and relaxation. (AFP)

GPS system
Deigan has been working with the Indian team since March 2015 on areas like strength and conditioning. It was on his recommendation that the Indian team started using GPS systems to monitor players during training sessions and matches from August last year. Before coming to India, he had worked wiith football teams like Western Sydney Wanderers FC, Central Coast Mariners FC and basketball teams like Sydney Kings.
Deigan said that the effects of cupping could probably be in the mind.
“If someone thinks it works, then maybe it works. It could be a placebo effect. There are a lot of things out there and if they work for you, then go with it. However, I’ve never recommended cupping,” Deigan said before adding that he hadn’t been asked by any national team footballer yet about the therapy.
One therapy the Australian does highly recommend is cryotherapy.
“At the institute I worked in back in Australia, in New South Wales, there were scientists there who were big in cryotherapy. That therapy definitely worked. We (Indian team) have ice baths, that’s cryotherapy as well. There’s very good research around that. Players feel better and we’re able to get more out of players in the following days. It helps in condensed schedules where we need to do a lot in not much time,” Deigan added.