On Tuesday, October 19, the NBA banned its players from wearing Athletic Propulsion Labs’ Concept 1 shoe, which incorporates a spring-based sole technology said to increase the wearer’s vertical jump instantaneously. In explaining the ban, the NBA released the statement, “Under league rules, players may not wear any shoe during a game that creates an undue competitive advantage.”
The ban resulted from an Athletic Propulsion Labs’ self-funded study, which set out to determine if their Load ‘N Launch technology actually provides extra lift to the wearer. According to the brand’s website, athleticpropulsionlabs.com, testers saw a “noticeable increase in their vertical leaps, felt lighter on their feet, and were more explosive for longer periods of time.”
Some test participants’ vertical leaps increased by 3.5 inches while wearing the Concept 1 shoes, which run $300. These findings led two biomechanics Ph.D.s involved in the study to conclude, “the Athletic Propulsion Labs Concept 1 provided a statistically significant increase in vertical leap compared to a leading brands’ most expensive high performance basketball shoe.” They also stated, “Participants were able to jump higher using less energy, which translated to the wearer feeling lighter on their feet and more explosive for longer periods of time.”
While the jury is still out on whether the Concept 1 shoe actually increases an athlete’s vertical jump, the NBA’s ban opens the door to a debate as to whether effective performance-enhancing gear should be viewed as a dirty shortcut to athletic success. In other words, should we ban something simply because it works? If so, we’ll need to take a long, hard look at athletic tape, which is known to improve cutting ability by increasing ankle stability; headbands, which provide improved vision by keeping sweat out of a player’s eyes; compression shorts and shirts, which are shown to improve endurance and power output of muscles underneath; and sleek, lightweight shoes, which improve speed due to reduced drag and weight.
A ban on performance-enhancing items should be reserved for those that bring with them the costs and damages of unsafe substances and methods, side effects and violations of the rules of a game. If an athlete can improve his performance in a safe, effective and morally-sound way, we say let him dress.
While the debate rages on, we recommend that you turn your attention to something that has been scientifically proven to increase your vertical jump over time—the explosive plyometric training demonstrated by NBA All-Star Brandon Roy in the video above.