There are very strict limits on what a professional athlete can put in their bodies. While vitamins are fine, all sorts of chemical compounds are regulated. This is okay, this one is not. This chemical is okay when recovering from an injury but not when healthy. The rules over sports medicine don’t end at the word “steroid.” There are vast regulations for all sorts of substances, and the list is constantly evolving. Some athletes, like tennis player Maria Sharapova, can get caught out using a substance that had once been accepted but later was not.
All this means that athletes are somewhat limited in what they can do to get ahead. While that is on the one hand good for sportsmanship, it would be naive to assume athletes don’t still look for advantages.
Like Sharapova, many athletes are almost certainly looking at the next new drug that falls in the gray area of sports enhancement, and which has yet to be regulated. Other athletes try zany new diets or experimental workout regimens. While these are not the “sure thing” boost that steroids are, they are still looking for the same extra bit of speed, strength or agility that comes from tricking the body in just the right way to perform that little bit better.
One area that has not been explored enough is sports enhancement hypnosis. Hypnosis has had incredible results in many areas of medicine. It can limit or remove pain during surgeries and help with all manner of mental issues, from phobias to sleep disorders. But what about sports?
We may be close to a new sports revolution in which athletes use hypnosis to convince their bodies to work harder and to limit the amount of pain they feel while they play. Imagine a boxer who has been hypnotized so he doesn’t feel the pain of each punch. Imagine a quarterback who can be hypnotized to realign his throw so it has perfect accuracy.
This really is an unexplored and potentially powerful avenue for sports medicine to take, though it leads to many of the same old uncomfortable questions.
If an athlete performs better when hypnotized, does that mean it is an “enhancement” even though no substance has been used? Should hypnotism be regulated by sports federations? And how could they even test for it?
While these are questions for the future, there is still room for athletes to take advantage of sports medicine and sports regulations falling behind in this area. The next great athletic breakthrough—whether it’s a faster 100 meters, a new heavyweight boxing champion, or a new record breaker in the pool—could come thanks to hypnotism. There’s an opportunity to be the first to break through the mental barriers the conscious mind puts up. It just takes an athlete willing to take the chance.