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  • Writer's pictureStefanie Rock

Are smelling salts safe for athletes?

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

This is one of those topics I wish I didn't have to even address. One of those "the pros do it so that makes it ok, right?" I should’ve known better.

I should have realized the first time I saw a cameraman focused on an athlete that this might horrifically trickle down to youth/teen athletes.

But still.

WTF?! My heart truly hurts that I even have to acknowledge this…


ESPECIALLY for youth and teen athletes.

Yes, those same smelling salts that use ammonia fumes to reawaken people who’ve passed out are becoming a “bench trend” (12 years old was the youngest I’ve heard).

Yes, those same smelling salts that have “allowed” boxers and athletes with head injuries to get back in the ring/game.

The premise is that it initiates sharp inhalation for increased breath (oxygen) and increased heart rate (focus).

But… the effects are short-lived and toxic AF.

Not surprising- there’s little to no actual research on the effects of smelling salts on the teenage brain.

BUT… we do know that inhalants destroy brain cells. And in the case of those under 25 where the brain is still developing, we aren’t just killing brain cells, we’re likely interrupting the development of neurological pathways.

We also know that inhalants (yes, ammonia/smelling salts- like paint thinner, gasoline, felt-tip markers, etc.) can cause

☠️ aggression

☠️cardiac arrest



☠️decrease in balance

☠️muscle spasms


☠️brain damage

If athletes relying on inhalants for energy and focus, we need to talk about strengthening foundations.

If you’re a coach or parent advocating for - or condoning- their use in players, we need to talk about player foundations & physiology NOW!!

Worried that your athlete's choices might be affecting their game or growth? Concerned they aren't meeting their nutritional needs?

Need family meal planning help that fits your active schedules?

Click here with questions or to schedule a call to see if Rock Performance is right for you.


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