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Smelling Salts: A Trend Sweeping the Sports World

When you think of gameday, whatever the sport may be, there are a few things which come to mind that are synonymous with the start of the game. Players coming out of their respective locker rooms and getting amped while their names are announced on the loudspeaker, the Star Spangled Banner playing with all the players and fans standing in respect, and increasingly players on the sideline can be seen sniffing something to get a jolt before hopping onto the field. That little capsule they have under their nose are smelling salts, and this pregame/in-game ritual of athletes using them to get their head in the game is becoming a huge fad throughout professional sports. 


These players aren’t just your run of the mill second string players that your average sports fan would not be able to recognize. These are the stars of the show, household names who people who don’t even pay attention to sports would know. Names such as Tom Brady, Derrick Rose, Peyton Manning, Dak Prescott, Alex Ovechkin, Ezekiel Elliot and countless have been seen throughout their respective games using smelling salts like clockwork. Even various gameday staff on the sidelines can be seen sniffing them to make sure they stay on top of their job. 

 Demarcus Lawrence of the Dallas Cowboys says he can’t drink coffee for a quick jolt during a game because it might affect his stomach so he has alternatively looked to smelling salts. “The ammonia wakes you up, opens your eyes,” explains Lawrence, “You’ll be on the bench you start to get a little tired and you got to wake your body up and that’s what that little ammonia does for you.”


This fad has caught the attention of many different sports blogs/news outlets and the research on the prevalence of this trend is staggering. A report released by ESPN estimated that as many as 80% of NFL athletes utilize smelling salts as a sort of performance enhancer. Legendary quarterback Tom Brady said, “We all do it. It’s kind of a receiver quarterback thing.”


With just a quick search online you can find many different articles from reputable press sites all reporting on this trend and usually questioning the benefit to players these salts serve. Alternatively, Australian Neurologist, Dr. Paul McCrory, likely the world expert in athletes’ use of salts, who has worked with Soccer clubs, F-1 racing drivers, and boxers has stated that, “salts increase arousal, heart rate, and breathing and when that happens it’s just a fact that you are stronger from a gross motor standpoint.”


When it comes to this trend and whether or not they serve value to the consumer, I believe the answer is simple. If there was no benefit to using smelling salts, why is it so prevalent in every major professional sport and why are countless athletes swearing by them?

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