Why Rio 2016 Olympic athletes have red circles on them

Michael Phelps with the red circle on his shoulder. Picture: Getty

Michael Phelps with the red circle on his shoulder. Picture: Getty

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Viewers of the 2016 Olympics have been left puzzled by the appearance of circular blotches on many athletes.

The red circles look like burn marks or bruising from a distance, though such a rationalisation wouldn’t explain why they are perfectly spherical, or why so many athletes - even some from different nations - have them.

And it’s not the result of some misadventure or another piece of bad press for these Rio Olympics. No, it’s none of these things. It’s cupping.

What’s cupping? Glad you asked. It’s a ancient therapy where heated cups are placed on the skin. The process, which involves lighter fluid and a glass cup, helps to cure athletes of aches and pains by stimulating blood flow.

Though it may sound like a step up from voodoo, athletes swear that it really works. US gymnast Alex Naddour said the technique was “better than any money I’ve spent on anything else.”

The cups can cause mild burns, though typically the red dot left on the skin is due to the blood coming to the surface and disappears after three to four days.

READ MORE - Rio 2016: How Team GB’s medal count compares to the rest

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