Why Do Athletes Use Smelling Salts

Why do Athletes Use Smelling Salts?

If you are a sports nut, particularly a follower of the NFL, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen this. A player is standing on the sideline and holds a tiny packet a few inches from his nose while taking a deep breath. In reaction to the smell, his head snaps back. What is this strange ritual, and what is he smelling? Those are smelling salts and have long been a part of serious athletes’ regimens. Why do athletes use smelling salts? Do they make a difference? Let’s take a look.


How do smelling salts work?

Those sealed packets you see being ripped open contain a mix of ammonia, alcohol, and water. When the packet is opened, ammonia gas is released into the air. When inhaled this gas irritates the nasal passages and the lungs. This mild irritation causes the body to react naturally and inhale deeply, bringing more air into the lungs and promoting oxygen flow to the brain. As a result, the athlete breathes faster and feels more alert, and gains a feeling of increased energy.


In addition to their use as an athletic supplement, smelling salts are traditionally used to awaken someone when they have blacked out. The body’s natural inhale reflex pulls in oxygen, increases blood pressure, and increases the heart rate helping them regain consciousness. 


Smelling salts in sports

The history of smelling salts can be traced back to Roman times. However, there’s no real indication of when athletes began using smelling salts for a competitive edge. Some believe the trend began in the 1940s. In the United States, smelling salts first became popular in boxing when trainers used them to revive stunned or knocked-out fighters. That said, smelling salts are currently banned from use in the boxing world. However, athletes are free to use smelling salts in other professional sports leagues like the NHL, NFL, and MLB. Smelling salts have been used in these leagues for years.


Do they work?

Many athletes will give a resounding yes as their answer to this question. However, there is no scientific data that validates their effectiveness. One thing is for certain, though. The mental aspect of smelling salts cannot be denied even without scientific data. Athletes who regularly use smelling salts will swear by them. Many will tell you about the burst of energy they receive after ripping the packet open and inhaling. Sports is a mental game, and even if this advantage is only something an athlete imagines in their head, it’s enough.


Whether you are powerlifting or active in another sport, perhaps you would like to experience smelling salts for yourself. Check out our smelling salt choices at House of Gains, and let us know your results!

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