With all of the news coming out of Rio this month, from Michael Phelps' record 28 medals to Simone Biles' remarkable gymnastics performances to a new 400 meter world record, one story has gone largely unnoticed.
That would be the story of a decades-old practice called "meat malleting."
Meat malleting, as the name implies, involves the use of a meat mallet to pound an athlete's sore muscles—ostensibly to speed recovery. Jerry Lundegaard, a member of the Danish beach volleyball team, is perhaps the method's most visible, and vocal, advocate.
"It hurts like hell," Lundegaard told reporters after a match last week. "But it works."
Does it? If so, how? And just how bad does it hurt? Here are some FAQ's about meat malleting therapy.
What is meat malleting?
Meat malleting, in essence, is the use of a meat mallet to break up tough tissue and "flush toxins" from sore muscles. Practitioners say the results are the same you get with actual meat—after a good pounding, muscles are supple, tender, and juicy.
Do practitioners use scientific-sounding jargon to describe this process?
They do. Shopping mall security guard and meat mallet therapist Shep Proudfoot, who works with several regionally ranked badminton players, says that malleting "enhances the body’s natural neurological and circulatory function," by "displacement of bio-capillaries" and "encouraging the flow of oxygenated blood to repair micro-contusions."
"Also, it flushes toxins."
Does it work?
The scientific and medical communities are skeptical. No research has been done on the therapy's efficacy, and even the underlying mechanics of the method leave many doubtful that it could possibly aid performance or speed recovery.
"There is zero evidence that meat malleting does anything except leave weird marks on your body," says Dr. Wade Gustafson, president of the Association of Dubious Physicians.
"Hammering your steak is one thing," he says. "Pounding your body's meat is quite another."
How do malleting adherents respond to that?
With a collective shrug. Malleting's fans swear by it, saying that after a good malleting session they fully recover almost 100% of the time. Also that it just makes sense that something like this would work. Also that it flushes toxins.
How much does it hurt?
It hurts a lot.
Could you get the same effect by applying some meat tenderizer in powder form, like from McCormick?
No. That would be ridiculous.