In the tunnel leading to the playing field, before the match between Ancelotti’s Everton and Crystal Palace (which ended 1-1) on Monday 5 April, the cameras framed Richarlison inhaling something from a small envelope. Comrade Holgate was taken in the same pose in March, before facing Burnley. They held ammonia-based salts, better known as scented salts, used for some years in various sports disciplines and which would now also have spread to the Premier League. However, they are not new in the world of football: their use had already been discussed during the 2018 World Cup in Russia, when to use them were the players of the host national team.

The mystery

Now, what many are wondering if these scented salts really help players to raise the level performance, or whether it’s just the latest trend. As happened, for example, with the mate, a drink widespread mostly in South America that has become a pre-match ritual for many players from all over the world looking for a boost given by caffeine. To improve breathing, Liverpool’s Robbie Fowler had launched the fashion of nose patches in the nineties while others, such as Rooney or Vieira, were spreading the Vicks VapoRub. The scented salts inhaled by Everton players are contained in small single-use packages, the size of a specific ketchup sachet The Athletic. Those who use them mainly experience two sensations: a sudden awakening of the senses and freer breathing due to their decongestant properties. In practice they would seem combine the effects of Vicks and those of coffee.

What science says

The aspect to underline, according to the magazine, is that all of this perfectly legal and does not violate WAda (the World Anti-Doping Agency) or Premier League guidelines on performance enhancing supplements. Although they are not even there definitive medical evidence that scented salts offer tangible benefits. Indeed, for Dr. James Malone, a specialist who follows the Premier League, very unlikely they will affect a 90-minute game, while they would make more sense for a weightlifter in a single run. So far, the scientist explains, only a handful of scientific articles have appeared on ammonia-based salts and none of them concern calcium; a couple focus on explosive strength. On the other hand, there is little research – he continues – on what the negative effects on health may be, and this is worrying. That is what would happen if perfumed salts became a habit and a footballer ended up taking them for ten years or for a whole career. Those who take them tell of an injection of energy at kick-off and it is easier for Dr. Malone to believe that these substances have now become part of the rituals. pre-match of some players. In recent times, in particular, those of Everton. Other experts cited by The Athletic in fact they agree on the ease with which habits, fashions and superstitious gestures spread inside a locker room.

April 9, 2021 (change April 9, 2021 | 13:58)

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