Smelling Salts in Football: A New Take

There’s been A LOT of debate lately about football and brain injuries (especially the NFL). Some of that debate was carried into a discussion about smelling salts (or ammonia inhalants) a month or two back when an ex NFL ball boy “broke the silence” and talked about what he saw on the field. He mentions smelling salts as a key tool in getting players back out on the field in an alert state after hard hits and describes in a gruesome fashion how players were unable to tie their own shoes (well he says open gum) and pooped their pants regularly.

football smelling salts nfl

Peyton Manning + Smelling Salts

One thing I want to bring up first is that there is definitely a problem here with the way injuries are being treated. That’s obvious by the fact that we have guys getting concussions over and over and it IS causing brain damage (named as CTE or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). Obviously getting multiple brain injuries is not good for you, and the competitive nature of the NFL just adds to the incentive for players to get out sooner than maybe they should and get hit again.

BUT, when it comes to some of the details brought up by the aforementioned ex ball boy, I heartily disagree. Can smelling salts be used the wrong way? Absolutely! that is why its been banned in boxing. Should they be banned in the NFL because people use them incorrectly at times? I don’t think so.

nfl football smelling salts

Bret Favre + Smelling Salts

For one, look at the bigger picture. This article comes out pointing fingers at smelling salts right in the second paragraph. Realize that it is a news article. It’s been written to sell itself. That usually includes sensationalizing the portions that work into the overall goal of the piece and downplaying the parts that do not. I’m not saying I disagree with the overall idea of that article (that more attention ought to be paid to NFL player’s mental & emotional health). I just disagree with pointing fingers at smelling salts as a culprit. If you knew the whole story about what happens on the field you’d know that:

A. If smelling salts weren’t around they’d find something else and

B. We are ignoring other substances like caffeine, alcohol, drugs etc. that also run rampant on and off the field and contribute to the same problem.

Smelling salts are not dangerous (here is why) in and of themselves. Except for egregious overuse, they will never hurt anyone. BUT, one does need to be careful with them.

In my experience, smelling salts are an amazing alternative to putting any chemical into my body that I don’t have to. I have and do use a variety of supplements (ranging from creatine to natural testosterone boosters), but I also recognize that less is closer to the ideal. The more I can get my body to work on its own the better off I will be. That’s why, for the most part, I like to focus on supplements that augment that body instead of replace the work that the body does. There is no magic bodyfat-melting pill, but there are plenty of supplements that help you work harder and burn more quicker as an example.

Anyways, I think that’s enough of a rant for now. Smelling salts are far from dangerous and are used in so many perfectly healthy situations even on the football field to help improve players’ performance.

If you have any comments, feel free to drop them in the box below!

Thanks for reading,


To feed your curiosity, here are a few other pictures of smelling salts in action (also stifles that “no pictures of smelling salts in nfl” rule the ball boy mentioned :) )


Clark Haggans (NFL) + Smelling Salts

Clark Haggans + Smelling Salts

Tank Johnson (NFL) + Smelling Salts

Tank Johnson + Smelling Salts

NFL's Keith Bulluck + Smelling Salts

Keith Bulluck + Smelling Salts

Again: Brett Favre + Smelling Salts

Again: Brett Favre + Smelling Salts

  1. 8 years ago
    Joey Buick

    The first picture is of Peyton manning not Tom Brady

    • 8 years ago
      Carl Lombard

      Wow, that was my bad. I picked up a bunch of pics a while back when I wrote this and must have mislabeled them and not noticed :) Thanks for pointing that out!


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