As the world keenly watches the ongoing 2022 FIFA World cup in Qatar, visuals of footballers spitting on the ground during the matches are common. But why do they do this?
According to experts, there’s some science behind it.
Some sports penalise players for spitting, such as basketball and tennis, but football and rugby do not, so players are free to expectorate.
In football, spitting is a common practise. It turns out that there is some science and performance-enhancing factor behind it, rather than just players expressing their displeasure with a situation.
Exercise has been shown in studies to increase the amount of protein secreted into the saliva, particularly a type of mucus known as MUC5B. This thickens the saliva, making it more difficult to swallow. As a result, there are numerous images of football players spitting out, despite the fact that it appears repulsive.
According to Dr. Udit Kapoor, senior consultant at Asian Hospital in Faridabad, saliva in the mouth thickens during physically strenuous activities such as football matches, which players prefer to spit out, the Indian Express reports. “Thicker saliva makes swallowing more difficult. As a result, it’s best to spit it out," he was quoted as saying.
He went on to say that it’s not just footballers who spit, but also cricketers and rugby players — and it’s legal in the sport. Former Nigeria goalkeeper Joseph Dosu said football players spit because “they need something to clear their throat… They make a 10- to 15-yard run and require air to breathe," Firstpost reported.
There are a few other theories about spitting being common in football. Some believe it is a case of OCD behaviour, while others believe it is a masculine display intended to intimidate.
There have also been images of players like England’s Harry Kane forcefully spraying a drink into his mouth and then spitting the entire mouthful over the nearest patch of bare earth since the start of the World Cup.
However, there is an explanation for this activity, which is known as carb-rinsing, Firstpost explains. Filling your mouth with a carb-filled liquid, in this case a sugar and salt-heavy sports drink, activates pleasure and sense receptors in your brain, leading it to believe that extra energy in the form of food is on the way. This, in theory, prevents your brain from believing your body is tired.
Asker Jeukendrup, an exercise physiologist and sports nutritionist, previously told The New York Times that the practise is similar to “a little bit of brain trickery." In fact, he discovered that carb-rinsing made cyclists about a minute faster in 40-kilometer cycling time trials in a 2004 study with the University of Birmingham.
Others in the field have also espoused the benefits of carb-rinsing. Dr. Sourav Poddar, a sports medicine physician, has also stated that carb rinsing can improve performance by two to three percent.
Another 2017 study published in the European Journal of Sport Science discovered that carb-rinsing improved performance. The study looked at 12 healthy men in their twenties and discovered that after carb-rinsing, they could jump higher, do more bench presses and squats, sprint faster, and were more alert.
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