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While most people enjoy quaffing red wine, the New York Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire has been soaking in it. The 31-year-old player, who had knee surgery last year, credits bathing in red wine for making him feel great after intense preseason play.
Stoudemire’s elaborate treatment includes a red wine and water bath, then undergoing a 90-minute massage and moving to a salt tub, a hot tub, a cold plunge, and a pool.
He believes the red wine makes a big impact.
“The red wine bath is very important to me because it allows me to create more circulation in my red blood cells,” Stoudemire told ESPN.
The ancient Spartans were said to bathe their babies in wine to make them stronger. Health experts have long known that red wine possesses some healthy benefits, thanks to resveratrol, an antioxidant found in the skin of red grapes and cocoa. Antioxidants trap free radicals, which damage and age cells. Pollution and UV rays produce free radicals that make the skin look old and damaged, for example, and people who ingest resveratrol might see healthier, more elastic skin. It also has been shown to promote heart health.
But little is known about resveratrol’s effects when applied topically. Could a lotion — or a long steep — heal aging skin, if it reaches the deeper levels of the skin where collagen and elastic form?
“There is no scientific evidence to disprove his theories and there is also no scientific evidence to prove it,” says Dr. Whitney Bowe, a dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology in New York City. “If it is helping him, he should absolutely keep doing it, but it may not be the red wine [causing the good feelings].”
Studies have shown that when ingested, resveratrol can lower bad cholesterol, make platelets less sticky so clots are preventing and dilate blood vessels (that’s the reason people also flush while drinking wine). But Bowe thinks that simply soaking in it wouldn’t improve circulation.
“Unless he’s drinking his bath water, which some people are known to do, it’s not going to affect his circulation and red blood cells,” she says.
Dr. David Geier, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine expert in Charleston, South Carolina, believes that one reason Stoudemire might feel so good is because it’s early in the NBA season.
“He may feel better because he’s had a few months off,” he says.
But, there’s no evidence that resveratrol reduces inflammation and pain, which would help the power-forward’s knee.
“It’s hard to imagine how lying in the red wine would have any affect on [cartilage] pain,” he says.
Stoudemire certainly isn’t the first athlete to find alternative treatments to cure ailments. While training for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, skier Lindsey Vonn smeared cheese curd on her right shin to reduce swelling. Swimmer Michael Phelps used a hyperbaric chamber to recover from his training.
Geier says as long as the treatments aren’t harmful, athletes should continue to do what makes them feel healthy.
Both Geier and Bowe believe the massage might be the most beneficial aspect of Stoudemire’s regime.
“The red wine bath and spa treatment can reduce cortisol levels, simply relieving stress can have a benefit for overall health and well-being,” says Bowe. “He’s decreasing cortisol and stress in his body.”