Alt-med causes real bad things to happen to real people.

Alt-med believers like to say that their treatments do no harm. Tell that to the fans of Atletico Madrid, who lost their quest for the championship because of what is euphemistically called a
controversial treatment.

Compared to more serious cases, the harm is small (a team lost a game - - so what?), but the public exposure is gigantic --€“ so maybe there'€™s a teachable moment.

controversial: adj  silly; false; fraudulent. The correct word to use when you don'€™t want to be the target of diatribes by enraged alt-met True Believers.
Background info and story, in the land beyond the orange pasta.

Background: What Super Bowl?
If you live on another planet or in the USA, you might be among the handful of humans unaware that yesterday was the final championship match of the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Champions' League. This is the biggest of the big games (outside the quadrennial World Cup). This one draws a worldwide audience rivalling or exceeding that of the annual championship in American Football. European fans are joined by fans from all over Africa, South/Central America, and Asia.

How it happened
Atletico'€™s star forward, Diego Costa, suffered a torn hamstring a couple weeks ago. This meant he could not play in the final. There's no way around it. Torn muscles take time to heal, and you can'€™t run on a torn hamstring.
But the usual equation prevailed

alt-med: desperation + ignorance + the desire to hope = opportunity for profit
and so Mr Costa trotted off to Belgrade where his chosen swindler applied (depending which account you read) horse placenta, or an extract of human placenta, or a mysterious liquid, with (depending which account you read) electricity, or injections, or massage. And in a sad burst of credulity, the manager allowed Mr Costa into the starting lineup. The miraculously cured muscle allowed him to play all of nine minutes, after which he had to be replaced -- and the substitution cost Atletico the game.

Background: Only Three Substitutions
In European football, you only get three substitutions in a game. You start with 11 players, and at least eight of them are committed to play for the duration. Three (3) times you can remove a player (he won'€™t go back in) and send in one replacement from the bench. After that --€“ no more. A player breaks his leg? Too bad. Either he keeps playing, or you continue with only 10 players.

Background: Strategic Use of Substitutes
Around 75 minutes into a 90-minute game, most footballers have run themselves to near exhaustion.   It's one thing to run five miles during a game; it'€™s another to do your five miles as a series of frantic 30-metre sprints. These guys are burnt out.

In the closing minutes, new substitutes can run rings around the rest of the players.

Games are frequently paused as players help each other fight off leg cramps (NaturalBlu / flickr)
But if you were forced to use up one of your three substitutions at the very start of the match, you have only two left --€“ a big disadvantage.
Team 1: 8 tired players + 3 with fresh legs.
Team 2: 9 tired players + 2 with fresh legs.
This disadvantage (8 and 3 versus 9 and 2) is why Atletico gave up the tying goal, pushing the game into overtime.

Coup de Grace: Out of Substitutes
In overtime the other curse of the substitution rule kicked in: star defender Juanfran twisted his ankle. He couldn'€™t run at all: only hobble pathetically around the field. And, having used both of their two remaining substitutions (after wasting one on Mr Costa), his team could not replace him.

Team 1: 8 tired players + 3 with fresh legs.
Team 2: 8 tired players + 2 with fresh legs + 1 one-legged player.
And that's where the game was lost.

In an alternate universe,
1. Quack medicine receives the ridicule and scorn it deserves,
2. Mr Costa does not even consider flying to Belgrade for "€œhorse placenta treatment"€,
3. He does not start the game,
4. Atletico still has all three substitutions, and
5. They hold on to win the European (read: world) Championship.

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