On The Bench: Smelling salts are the new steroids

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Smelling salts, or ammonia carbonate capsules, are mainly used in first-aid situations to revive a victim from fainting spells or concussions. The pungent odor sends a sudden shock to your brain to wake you up with a burst of adrenaline. However, this medical tool has now developed into a pre-game or mid-game “pick-me-up” for some professional athletes. Now, smelling salts have become a national trend with sport-based energy companies who market these products specifically toward athletes. This shouldn’t be.

According to the National Institute of Health, the ammonia gas in these cerebral stimulants aggravate membranes in your nose and lungs which trigger a reflex reaction that shocks the body into developing an increased breathing pattern, improved respiratory flow and in some cases, alertness. It’s then understandable why some athletes would find this capsule as a quick fix to the mental and physical tiredness they might have during a game. But, is it the moral thing to do? You shouldn’t have to supplement your performance with stimulants.

The NFL is one of the largest culprits of this trend. After a player gets hit hard on the field, the medical staff rushes to his side and slide some capsules under their nose to revive them. This is a quick fix to keep the game going and get the player off the field and into the locker room, but what if they have a spinal or brain injury? This could cause serious repercussions to the player. Even though there hasn’t been significant medical research done on the effects of these stimulants, it can’t be good to shock your brain and respiratory system constantly.

The main reason athletes attest to taking these stimulants is to center their focus and maintain alertness during long and strenuous activities and games. If this is the case, why can’t the player just use other energy-enhancing supplements such as protein based foods or energy drinks? An energy drink might not be a great alternative, but it’s probably better than smelling salts that could potentially affect your mental and physical health.

As this trend continues, it seems that this practice has become addictive just like the use of other stimulants such as steroids or cocaine. These drugs are serious stimulants that have been used in the past to keep athletes “hyped” or improve their performance. It might be a bit of a stretch to compare these stimulants, but anything can become addictive and used as a reliance, especially in terms of sports where athletes are pressured to keep their bodies and minds at peak performance. The pressure can become extreme and force athletes to make some hazardous decisions to keep their jobs. Still, they shouldn’t have to risk their health to keep their jobs.

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