While most of the responsible adults in America with any foresight whatsoever have already abandoned the National Football League because of it’s disrespect to the nation, there is at least one more habit that players have that could put holdouts over the edge. Anyone who considered the NFL to have any integrity left is now faced with a trend that completely blows that theory out of the water.
While we know that many common drugs are banned by the league for use by the players, it turns out that players can get a boost from something else, a backdoor if you will. Taking a medication orally is the most common way of getting a substance into your bloodstream, but it’s not the only way. Players and even team staff have been caught sniffing performance-enhancing substances, and the league doesn’t seem to care.
Dallas Cowboys player Ezekiel Elliott was the subject of an ESPN exposé about the players, throughout the league who have started huffing an ammonia mixture for a little sideline pick-me-up between downs:
“…Elliott and a handful of his Cowboys teammates are breathlessly engaged in the latest, strangest sports ritual: huffing the stomach-turning noxious fumes found in smelling salts.
The ammonia-based inhalant is manufactured for the express purpose of treating or preventing fainting, but at some point, NFL players and other athletes discovered they could repurpose the decongestant properties and adrenaline-pumping side effects into a perfectly legal, low-tech pick-me-up … even though there’s zero proof of any performance benefit. In fact, this will be the first of at least eight capsules for Elliott today. Using hand movements reminiscent of his trademark “feed me” gesture, Elliott inhales a capsule before donning his helmet for each Dallas drive in a 35-30 loss to the Rams. He’s far from alone, on either team. Directly behind Elliott, two members of the Cowboys’ game-day staff, dressed in matching blue slacks and white polos, are busy sniffing away on their own ammonia capsules.”
It’s understood that professional athletes are under a tremendous amount of strain, both physically and physiologically, while they play the game. However, these habits are a notch or two above having a cup of coffee with your morning paper, and the after-effects are really not at all know. The article likens them to a decongestant, but it’s worth noting that any medication, over the counter or otherwise, has a recommended dosage. If there’s a decongestant that recommends that you take 8 over the course of a couple of hours, I’ve yet to see it.
It’s is a basically unregulated substance because it’s more commonly used for cleaning, and we’re recommended to not have it near our faces, and yet these players are huffing it like it’s their life support. The reality is that this substance that is supposed to help them be more alert and attentive while playing, might, in reality, be causing them to ignore the warning signs of brain damage.
Here’s more from our source about the affects this dangers habit could have on professional athletes:
“Near the end of the first half, six members of the Dallas defense can be seen simultaneously hitting the salts before taking the field. The group includes veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who jogs onto the field while using his right hand to make the sign of the cross and his left hand to sniff salts, and defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, the NFL’s sack leader through four games.
Lawrence says he can’t drink coffee for a quick jolt during the game because it might affect his stomach, so he has turned to smelling salts. “The ammonia wakes you up, opens your eyes,” Lawrence explains. “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.”
But that simple explanation, like the entire smelling salts fad itself, doesn’t quite pass the sniff test.
The initial discomfort is quickly followed by a sensation that your breathing pathways have not just opened up but expanded exponentially while ramping up your alertness to an almost euphoric level. This phase is short-lived, however: Lawrence says that for him, it lasts about one set of downs. Also, the initial wave can sometimes be followed by prolonged bouts of nausea that serves as a vivid reminder of why household ammonia products come with the warning: Avoid inhalation of vapors.
“The claim is that smelling salts arouse your consciousness and focus, but how many of us in our daily lives think it’s appropriate during a tough day at work to open a bottle of ammonia and start sniffing the fumes?” says Dr. Joseph Estwanik, a fellow with the American College of Sports Medicine. “Ammonia’s intended use is for cleaning. Giving a highly trained elite athlete ammonia to help them perform at their peak is like throwing a drowning man a cup of coffee.”
The company that manufactures the NFL’s capsules, the New Jersey-based James Alexander Corp., has repeatedly stated that the product is designed to treat or prevent fainting. A company spokeswoman had no response when asked about the widespread misuse of smelling salts in the NFL. Ignoring the topic seems to be the common response when it comes to the league’s secret little helper. Even though the capsules are typically distributed by athletic trainers, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association wouldn’t discuss the topic and doesn’t have official guidelines on the use of ammonia capsules.
There is one clear, though indirect, danger to using smelling salts: In the past, they’ve been routinely used to mask and combat concussion symptoms in sports such as boxing and football. In 2011, after quarterback Terry Bradshaw began experiencing the effects of brain damage suffered during his Hall of Fame career in Pittsburgh, he wrote: “When I played for the Steelers and I got my bell rung, I’d take smelling salts and go right back out there. All of us did that.”
For that reason, the practice of using salts has been banned for decades by major boxing organizations, and in the NFL, league spokesman Brian McCarthy says “team medical staffs do not use [smelling salts] in any way for the treatment of any concussion or other injury.
“We have seen no proven performance enhancement and minimal risk,” he says. “Team medical staffs monitor all aspects of their players’ care.”
In college football, salts are already common. And Estwanik wants the NFL to outlaw ammonia before the league’s huffing habit becomes just as widespread on the high school level, where there isn’t enough medical supervision to prevent the use of ammonia to mask conditions such as asthma, dehydration and head injuries.”