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ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10, 11.1
A section of the advertisers’ website titled “Powerballs. Finger and Hand Rehabilitation” included the following statement:
“Strengthen as you recover
Powerball affords you a fast and effective way to strengthen damaged muscles, bones and tendons in the fingers and hands. If you suffer from weak hands, fingers or lack of grip strength, or you are recovering from an injury, Powerball is the perfect tool for hand rehabilitation. Spin Powerball for as little as 3 minutes a day and massively improve your overall grip strength and hand health. What’s more, Powerball’s active combination of hand rehabilitation and strengthening massively speeds up recovery times, so that you can get back to a healthy and pain-free lifestyle in no time.”
The complainant objected to the statement “Massively speeds up recovery times” as they did not believe that it could be proven, as they believed that no studies had been carried out.
The advertisers referred to a selection of reviews that they had sampled from just one of their Powerball models, and forwarded links to 22 of these reviews. They said that there were over 5000 independently submitted reviews for Powerball on Amazon and that approximately 70% of the reviews were 5-star.
The advertisers said that there had been various independently prepared studies based around Powerball and its benefits on the upper limbs both in terms of enhancing the user’s grip strength and also in helping to reduce wrist pain. The Studies referenced were:
• Title: Hand Gyroscope versus Hand Grip: Strength Gains after a Four Week Training Programme, Author: Duffin, C, Student at University of Edinburgh, England.
• The Effect Of POWER®BALL On Non-Specific Wrist Pain. A dissertation presented to the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Johannesburg, as partial fulfilment for the Master’s Degree in Technology: Chiropractic. Author Hermann Maree, J.
• The Effect of PowerBall on Grip Strength. A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Master’s Degree in Technology: Chiropractic, in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Johannesburg. Author Legg, J P
• The Effect of a Forearm Strengthener On Grip Strength and Time-To-Fatigue, Authors: McAllister D, Larsen R, Larsen Z, McEwen K, Pillitteri P, Smetanka R. Department of Biology Southern Utah University
• Utility of the Powerball In The Invigoration Of The Musculature Of The Forearm, Authors: Balan S A, Garcia-Elias M. Institut Kaplan, Barcelona, Spain, published by World Scientific in 2008.
• Effects of vibration resistance exercise on strength, range of motion, function, pain and quality of life in persons with tennis elbow. Authors: Jong-Hun Lima, and Won-Seob Shina
• Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Science 2016; 5:163-9. Published online December 30, 2016
• Effects of eight-week “gyroscopic device” mediated resistance training exercise on participants with impingement syndrome or tennis elbow. Authors: Mojtaba Babaei-Mobarakeh, Amir Letafatkar, Amir Hosein Barati, Zohre Khosrokiani. Published In the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies on Science Direct.
The advertisers said that when preparing content for the Powerballs.com website they had sought the services of an IAPT registered Physical Therapist who was also a Lecturer in Musculoskeletal Anatomy, was a Professional Tennis Coach and was a Masters Student in Sport & Exercise Psychology.
They advertisers also referred to the many testimonials published on their website that they had received over the last 20 years from people who have found the product to have been nothing short of a miracle worker for their own personal upper limb condition. They referred to the fact that many of the reviews give independent testimony to the fact that use of the device brought on rehab and healing the customers various ailments, often in as little as 2-3 days where conventional treatment had failed despite being used for months or even years in some cases.
The advertisers stated that they have been selling Powerball worldwide since 1998 and that this was the first time that they have had an objection to the manner in which they promote the product.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted the testimonials that had been referenced and forwarded. The Committee referred to the Code requirements around the use of testimonials, particularly that testimonials did not constitute substantiation and that any opinion expressed in them should be supported, where necessary, with independent evidence of their accuracy. (Section 4.17).
In relation to the studies that had been referred to or forwarded, the Committee noted that three of the studies had been carried out by final year university students as part of their dissertations. As these studies were not peer-reviewed scientific publications, the Committee did not accept them as substantiation. The Committee examined a study published by World Scientific that had been carried out in 2008 and considered that the results of this study were inconclusive and did not therefore, support the advertising claim.
The Committee examined a further two studies, one which had been published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies and the second which had been published in Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Science, both of which were recognised peer-reviewed scientific journals.
The Committee noted that in both studies it had been shown that the use of the product versus a control group had resulted in better outcomes over the time period of the studies. However, noting that the advertising claim was that the product “massively speeds up recovery times”, the Committee did not consider that evidence supported the use of the word “massively”. In the circumstances the Committee considered that the use of the term “massively” had exaggerated the benefits of the product and therefore found it in breach of Sections 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10 and 11.1 of the Code.
The reference to ‘massively’ should be removed from the advertising claim.