We all chew gum. This little ritual has become a part of our everyday lives and something we do constantly. However, what are the benefits of this? In addition, what is the reason footballers chew gum?
Chewing gum has numerous health benefits. It is good for your jaw and mouth, helps burning calories and it can even reduce heartburn. One research showed that chewing gum is one way to cope with depression. How can footballers profit from chewing gum? And why do they do it?
If you take a look at some football matches, you will probably see some footballers chew gum. This has become something widely represented in football, and some other sports. What are the motives of this habit and does it really help footballers in any way?
Does Chewing Gum Enable Footballers to Think Faster?
Can chewing gum help you with increasing your brain activity? Is this the reason why footballers chew gum?
Research has shown that chewing gum can greatly improve the performance of your brain. People who chewed gum scored 40% more in memory tests conducted by the British Psychological Society. They even referred to this memory boost as “quite dramatic”.
The movement of the jaw while chewing gum is increasing mental activity due to the fact that the nerves are sending continuous signals and messages to the brain. This makes the brain active all the time and can help footballers stay sharp and focused during the game. It increases their alertness and reflexes. That way, footballers can shorten their reaction time during the play. When in a competitive match, every advantage during the game can make a difference in the final score. Considering this, shorter reaction time will contribute to the competitive edge of the game.
Footballers who chew gum have enhanced cognitive capabilities. This will improve their decision making as chewing gum helps them think clearly, faster and with a higher level of concentration. They can better analyse all the factors of the game and make better decisions on the field.
One important thing to bear in mind is that after spitting your gum, the benefits go away. There is no carryover of benefits afterward.
Is Chewing Gum Helping Footballers in Keeping their Mouth Healthy?
The chewing of gum helps footballers keep their mouth moist and hydrated. It is directly associated with keeping the mouth healthier as it stimulates saliva. This is a natural way of removing the bits of food remaining after a meal.
Running and intense workout may result in dehydration and dry mouth. Chewing gum helps footballers keep their mouth at an appropriate level of hydration, so they do not have the feeling of a dry mouth while playing.
Does Chewing Gum Lower the Footballers’ Stress Level?
Important games can be quite a stressful experience for football players. All the hard work and time invested before that day is now put to the test. It is natural to feel anxious and boosted with energy. If you are a little nervous, wouldn’t it be great if you could calm down and use that energy to increase your performance?
Chewing gum is one way you can achieve this and this is the reason why footballers are increasingly doing so. This is because the level of stress is reduced. If you do not chew gum, you feel more stressed and have a higher level of anxiety. Why is that the case? How can this help footballers during the game?
The main reason why this is possible is that moving your jaw while in chewing motion increases the blood flow to the brain. This increased blood flow helps to increase oxygen in the brain and in turn decreases the stress level. This also helps the flow of happy chemicals in the brain, which additionally calms you down.
The studies have shown that footballers who chew gum have reduced cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone and reducing the level of cortisol keeps you calmer and less anxious. That way you are in a position to make decisions rationally and without pressure. This has also led to increased performance on the field.
An important thing to note here is that this varies according to the source of the stress. It is not the same if the stress is chronic and you have had it for a long time, or the stress is a result of something new that happened, aka acute stress. If it is acute stress, then chewing gum can help footballers reduce stress and anxiety.
How does Chewing Gum Improve a Footballer’s Abilities?
Quicker reflexes and response time mean that the players have a faster body movement and an increased agility level. This leads to a faster contraction of their muscles, which eventually gives them the ability to run faster and jump slightly higher. That way, footballers who chew gum will have a competitive advantage over their opponents.
Do Footballers Chew Gum as a Force of Habit?
Sometimes it all comes down to a habit of doing something. This is also the case with footballers when chewing gum. Whether it is for the goal of keeping them calm, or for medical reasons, footballers often do this just because they developed a habit of doing so.
It is actually the habit of chewing, not necessarily the gum. It could be sunflower seeds, candy, beef jerky. We can even say that probably most footballers are not even aware of the positive sides of chewing gum and all the research that lies behind it. It has just become their habit to do it. Simple as that.
Nevertheless, no matter what the motivation behind this is, the fact is that even if it is a thing of habit, it still makes them feel relaxed and less anxious. This also makes them feel more confident and can increase their performance.
Keep in mind that the gum you choose may have different effects on your body. The hardness of gum influences the changes in the blood flow to the brains. A gum with a moderate hardness contributes more towards the increased blood flow than a gum that is too hard or too soft.
Famous Coaches and Footballers Known for Chewing Gum
Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson left a mark in Manchester United. He is the manager who brought them most trophies and is truly one of the greatest managers in the world of football. Among all of his successes, he was also well known for his habit of chewing gum. This was his signature and a habit that stayed with him throughout his entire career.
It was often noticed that as the game time passed, and especially when the games were close, “Fergie” chewed the gum more intensely. Obviously, this was his way of dealing with higher levels of stress. Chewing gum helped him to keep calm and focused on making right decisions when necessary.
How much this shaped the football world and influenced the football fans is shown by the event from last year. Former Manchester United head coach had his last game played against West Bromwich Albion, on May 13th 2013, as a part of the Premier League. Besides the score 5 – 5, this game will be remembered as the game when Fergie chewed his last gum as a Manchester United manager. After the game, he disposed of it on the ground, and apparently, one fan picked it up. This piece of gum was sold on eBay for 456,000 euros. What an incredible figure for a gum!
Marcos Evangelista de Moraes, known to all AC Milan fans as Cafu. Cafu won with Rossoneri six trophies and is considered one of the best right full backs of all time. The Brazilian was famous for his impressive skills and is one of those who transformed the role of right full back to the attacking role we know today.
This is not the only thing is known for. Cafu is the footballer, which the fans all around the world know as a player “with a smile on his face and a chewing gum in his mouth”. These two things became his trademark.
Cafu played aggressive, high-intensive football. Apparently, chewing gum helped him keep the energy level and concentration in defence. With the use of chewing gum, he maintained a high focus level during the entire game.
Footballers’ action of chewing gum is something that has a long tradition. This helped some players relieve stress and stay focused during the game. Chewing gum increases the level of activity in the frontal lobe of the brain. That makes the brain cortex more alert and vivid, which increases cognitive functions. Chewing gum may be your advantage on the field. However, keep in mind this is completely an individual thing.
Although chewing gum can help your teammate increase his performance, that does not mean it will improve your game. This is an important tip to pay attention to. Just chewing gum will not make you a better player.
Finally, chewing gum is not something that is characteristic only to football. This ritual is widely spread into many other sports, like baseball and cricket. These players also use this habit to stay calm and focused during play.