Red Sox

What scientists say about Adam Ottavino’s practice of earthing before Red Sox games

"A surprisingly positive and overlooked environmental factor on health."

Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
Red Sox reliever Adam Ottavino stands barefoot on the lip of the mound at Fenway Park, five hours before game time. He believes the process, called Earthing, grounds him and helps him prepare for the game.

Adam Ottavino has an unconventional way of preparing for Red Sox games: The reliever, who has been sensational for much of this season, practices earthing — otherwise known as grounding.

Earthing is the practice of coming in physical contact with Earth, which can take a number of forms: Lying on the sand at the beach, swimming in the ocean, or — in Ottavino’s case — walking barefoot on outfield grass. In a feature written by The Boston Globe‘s Stan Grossfeld, Ottavino described the process as a way to connect with the energy at Fenway Park.

“For me, I know that there’s some science behind it, obviously, but I’m not trying to get too wrapped up in that,” Ottavino told Grossfield. “Basically, I’m just trying to connect with the environment I’m going to be in every day and it just kind of helps.”

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But what does the science say? Surprisingly, experts find the health benefits of earthing to be eye-opening, if currently under-researched. A 2012 study found that “emerging scientific research has revealed a surprisingly positive and overlooked environmental factor on health.”

Part of that study examined the effects of Earthing on sleep. A group of 60 people who self-reported having sleep issues were given a blind test. Every person received a mattress pad with conductive carbon fiber that simulated walking on grass. Half were connected to a dedicated Earth ground outside each subject’s bedroom window, and half were not.

The results were impressive. Of the group with a connected mattress pad, 85 percent fell asleep quicker, 93 percent reported improved quality of sleep, and 100 percent reported that they woke feeling more rested. Interestingly, 82 percent reported less stiffness and pain, and 74 percent reported an improvement in chronic pain.

In another study conducted by the same group, 58 subjects — including 30 control subjects — were tested for physiological effects. Among the subjects who were exposed to an earthing wire for 28 minutes, the results — some of which were “abrupt, almost instantaneous” — suggested “reductions in overall stress levels and tensions and a shift in [autonomic nervous system] balance upon earthing.”

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Another study cited an eight-month-old, non-healing open wound suffered by an 84-year-old diabetic woman. The woman reported 80-percent pain reduction after a week of 30-minute grounding sessions and 100-percent pain reduction after two weeks. Photos in the study (which depict an open wound) show that the open sore healed in those two weeks. Other scientists found evidence that earthing reduces inflammation and can help treat chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

“The very fabric of the body appears to serve as one of our primary antioxidant defense systems,” the authors wrote. ” … It is a system requiring occasional recharging by conductive contact with the Earth’s surface — the ‘battery’ for all planetary life — to be optimally effective.”

As of yet, no study seems to have examined specifically whether Ottavino’s slider — which breaks 8.3 inches horizontally above league average, per MLB Savant — is improved due to his daily reconnection with the Earth’s electrons.

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