Basketball players chew gum because it is thought to calm players and temporarily release feelings of anxiety and nervousness during a game to improve alertness and productivity.
If you watch a basketball game, you must have noticed that some basketball players chew gum. It is said that gum-chewing started out as a subtle gesture of Michael Jordan in the NBA, and from then on, it has been a habit for some basketball players.
The act of gum chewing is considered an ergogenic aid in basketball. Ergogenic aids may be a substance or a device that is said to enhance energy production. In this article, we’ll discover the reason why basketball players chew gum and what benefit they gain from it.
Reasons Why Basketball Players Chew Gum While Playing?
1. It is thought to boost brain activity
According to some studies, the level of activity in the brain’s frontal lobe increases when you chew. It is said that the act of chewing gum makes the basketball players alert so they can think clearly during the game to avoid errors and shed distractions while on the court easily. It may also improve bodily functions such as blood pressure regulation, improve heart rate, and can boost a stress-reducing effect.
2. It prevents players from getting dry mouth
Chewing gum while playing the sport stimulates saliva flow and moistens the mouth, especially since you can only drink water during basketball breaks. When a player gets a dry mouth, they can easily feel exhaustion, tiredness, and thirstiness. Chewing gum is also a way to prevent bad breath and prevent tooth decay among athletes, especially if the gum uses a natural sweetener called Xylitol.
3. It reduces game-day nerves and anxiety
Nervousness can sometimes make or break a player’s performance. When you are nervous or anxious, there is a tendency you won’t be able to concentrate. It can’t be avoided to get nervous before the game starts, especially when there is a large crowd, so chewing gum serves as an outlet to release tension for you to be calm.
4. It is thought to increase memory and retention
Studies suggest that chewing gum improves memory because the act of chewing may increase the blood flow in the brain. Basketball is not just a physical game, it also involves the mental ability to develop your skills further. According to research, chewing gum induces mastication-induced arousal that gives in a special kick of energy that helps you concentrate, thus improving memory.
Another reason why gum chewing enhances memory is that the gum’s glucose content releases insulin into the bloodstream. When there is a high insulin concentration in the body, it intensifies memory formation and further develops the synaptic plasticity mechanism.
5. Fight sleepiness
The basketball game can be boring and may lead to sleepiness when the other team has been dumped by the opponent or the other team is leading based on the scores. The ability to chew the gum exerts effort because it involves the voluntary muscles making you busy so it will be an effective way to fight sleepiness while on the court.
It is thought that chewing gum decreases adrenaline that fights drowsiness. If you are not sleepy, you’ll have more energy that lets you be productive inside the court.
6. Increases alertness
Research shows that chewing gum greatly impacts mood. It is believed to boost the cortisol level, which increases alertness. Alertness, while you are in the game, is important so you can guard the ball efficiently.
7. It already becomes a habit
Some players chew gum, not because they believe that it has benefits, but because it has already become a habit. In most cases, habits can’t be forgotten easily.
8. Helps you burn calories
As you chew gum, it can help you burn calories, especially on the face. Studies show that it would take 10-15 calories, just an hour of chewing. So, if you are a player that is conscious about getting fit, just chew gum, and you’ll be surprised to burn facial fats without noticing it.
Does Chewing Gum Improve Your Basketball Performance?
As mentioned earlier, chewing gum may help boost the level of activity in the frontal lobe, enhancing the brain’s cortex part, and increasing cognitive functions and alertness. Since there may be an increase in cognitive functions, the basketball player’s response time will equate to a quicker movement or quicker reflexes that may enhance your basketball performance.
An increase in cognitive functions would also mean an increase in the agility level that may lead to better function of the muscles to be able to jump higher and run faster. Psychologically speaking, when gum-chewing becomes a habit, it becomes a psychogenic aid wherein players tend to be more active when they chew gum. In this case, the performance of the player is dependent on gum chewing.
Is Chewing Gum Advisable While Playing Basketball?
Some basketball players chew gum because it’s already a habit. Chewing gum while playing basketball has benefits such as it makes you alert, especially in times when you are already bored and sleepy. However, according to World Dental Federation, chewing gum has detrimental effects on overall oral health.
If you are used to chewing gum to make your mouth busy, experts suggest using mouthguards. Mouth guards are designed to protect the mouth area—lips, teeth, and tongue against the impact that you can get through basketball. Some mouthguards are chewable, so basketball players who are used to chewing gum can definitely shift into it.
Negative Effects Of Chewing Gum During Basketball Games
Good thing chewing gum doesn’t have serious side effects. The most common side effect of gum is tooth decay, but it can be avoided by chewing sugar-free gum. According to experts, players who chew gum while playing the sport are prone to choking, but it has a low risk, especially when the gum size is small.
One thing that players worry about when they have gum in their mouth is spitting it on the court accidentally, which is disgusting and embarrassing. It is believed that excessive gum chewing may result in headaches because the jaw is fatigued.
Famous Basketball Players Who Love To Chew Gum
Aside from his one-of-a-kind free-throw moves, one of the legacies that Michael Jordan left behind is his habit of chewing gum. He feels the benefits that he gets as he chews gum while playing the sport. According to him, he tends to be more relaxed while on the court to ensure that he’s playing to his full potential.
Kobe Bryant used to chew gum while playing basketball. This habit makes him more alive and aggressive while in court. However, it didn’t last because apparently, it makes his mouth dry. Instead of chewing gum, Kobe’s father suggested that he just chew his jersey whenever he feels like chewing. From then on, you’ll see in his previous games the habit of chewing his jersey.
Nowadays, the habit of gum chewing is starting to disappear because of mouth guards that serve a dual purpose—protection and chewing gear. Chewing gum may have many benefits, but there are still a lot of factors to consider that will be responsible for your overall performance on the court.