Magnet Magnate

updated 03/09/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/09/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

FOR ATHLETES, AN INJURY CAN CANCEL A career. For Lisanne DiNapoli, it worked the other way around. After the Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., golf pro pinched a nerve in her back in 1993, her physical therapist gave her a magnetic pad—a treatment common in Japan and Europe—to wear on the sore spot. "After one day I was 99 percent better," says DiNapoli, now 29. "Everybody knew I was using a magnet. They thought I was nuts."

Perhaps—but she was no dummy. Soon after, DiNapoli told one of her students—former Borden Foods CEO Bill Roper—and fellow golf pro Mickie Gallagher about the treatment, which believers say works by drawing blood and oxygen to injured areas. Together the three started Magnetherapy Inc. Their products—ranging from a small bracelet ($149) to a mattress pad ($499)—now soothe such golfing stars as Arnold Palmer and Greg Norman, members of the Miami Dolphins and speed skater Bonnie Blair. After first encountering magnets 30 years ago in Japan, golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez swears by them. "I sleep on a magnetic mattress," he says. "I don't have as many aches and pains as I had before."

Some users are less enthusiastic. Randy Oravetz, head trainer for the Florida State Seminoles athletic teams, says wearing magnets "helped a bit" on some of his players, but "for other guys, it doesn't do anything." Still, believers abound: Magnetherapy Inc.'s sales soared to $5 million last year. For her part, the single DiNapoli, an Albany, N.Y., native who took up golfing after graduating from Rhode Island's Providence College because "I didn't want to get a real job," has adjusted to her role as senior vice president. "I never get intimidated around all these brainiacs," she says of her high-power colleagues. "I know I can always get them on the golf course."

From Our Partners