Basketball is one of the most popular games in the world for smokers and non-smokers alike. However, you may have heard conflicting evidence on whether or not basketball players can smoke. Some say that nicotine gives you an added boost to your performance, but others say you should avoid cigarettes no matter what.
There is nothing stopping basketball players from smoking, but the risks far outweigh the positives. From reduced athletic ability to detrimental long-term health effects, basketball players are discouraged from smoking. However, nicotine proper has been shown to have some benefits for basketball players.
Read on to learn more about basketball playing and smoking, from the benefits of nicotine proper (the main ingredient in cigarettes) to ways to improve your playing ability as an active smoker.
Can Basketball Players Smoke?
Nothing is outwardly preventing basketball players from smoking. However, it is not recommended that athletes smoke or use any other tobacco products as the risks, such as cancer and heart disease, far outweigh the benefits.
On the other hand, nicotine proper has a small number of benefits for your basketball playing ability, mostly regarding your ability to focus and maintain your memory.
Can Smoking Affect Your Playing Ability?
Despite the benefits of nicotine, smoking can affect your playing ability in several detrimental ways, most notably:
Smoking Can Make Your Lungs Less Efficient
Cigarettes do not just contain nicotine but also substances that can negatively impact your lungs, such as tar and ingredients found in lighter fluid. These dangerous chemicals can damage your lung’s airways and tissue, thus reducing the amount of oxygen you can take in at any given time.
Smoking Can Reduce Your Levels of Endurance
Since smoking reduces your lung efficiency, it should not come as a shock that smoking reduces your physical endurance as well.
Smoking can cause your breath to shorten and make it harder for you to complete your basketball practices. It is hard to keep up with the ball and your opposing team if you can’t even keep your breath up!
Smoking Can Make It Easier for You to Get Injured
Research has shown that athletes who smoke, regardless of the sport they practice, are about twice as likely to get injured while practicing or playing when compared to non-smokers. This is due to a variety of factors, but most notability a smoker’s reduced physical endurance.
Physical fitness has been shown to reduce the occurrence of injury in people drastically, but that benefit is nonexistent in smokers. In fact, regardless of physical activity, smokers can be at a 30% higher risk of injury than non-smokers. Because basketball is a physically demanding sport, your risk of injury increases if you smoke and play basketball.
Smoking Makes It Harder to Recover from Illness or Injury
As smoking can reduce the efficiency of the blood circulating around your body, it can take longer for you to recover from illness or injury if you are a smoking athlete.
This is also a downside due to nicotine in your body, as it can impair your body tissue’s ability to repair injuries. Furthermore, this effect makes it harder for your blood to distribute important nutrients in your body, making it take longer for you to fight off any illnesses you may have.
Does the Frequency of Smoking Affect Playing Ability?
The more you smoke, the more your basketball playing ability will reduce, and the more likely you will be at risk for significant health problems that can further hinder your playing ability, including:
Rapidly Increasing Blood Pressure
Long-term smoking can significantly increase your blood pressure and can result in hypertension. High blood pressure does little to help with your basketball playing and can, in fact, render it harder for you to exercise or play properly.
Even though exercise is a recommended treatment for people with high blood pressure, remember that smoking can negate any positive effect exercise may have.
Long-term smoking will make it easier for your blood to clot, and this can ultimately result in a heart attack.
The endless array of toxins found in cigarettes tends to damage your blood vessels, thickening them, which can lead to a heart attack. Studies have shown that smokers are up to 4 times more likely to develop heart problems than the general populace.
Development of Osteoporosis or Other Bone Diseases
If you smoke in the long term, you risk developing bone diseases such as osteoporosis. A relationship between long-term smoking and weakened bone density has been shown, and smokers tend to be at a greater risk for bone fractures and bone cancer than their nonsmoking counterparts.
Development of Cancer, Most Notably Lung and Throat Cancer
Long-term smoking can cause cancerous tumors to form in almost any part of your body. In almost 90% of all lung cancer cases, smoking has been shown to cause cancer in the blood, throat, stomach, and other places.
Nicotine is an easy way to get an added boost in attention and energy when you are practicing or playing basketball. However, because of the many health risks, using cigarettes for nicotine intake is just not worth it.
What Are the Effects of Nicotine on Playing Ability?
Nicotine can, in some situations, actually improve your basketball playing. Here are some examples of the effects of nicotine on your body:
Nicotine Can Increase Your Attention
Like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant drug; this means that nicotine tends to make you feel more alert to your surroundings and can increase your attention span.
Caffeine and nicotine are the safest ways anyone, regardless of if they play basketball or not, can obtain the benefits of stimulants, as neither alone has any detrimental effect in moderation.
Nicotine Can Improve Your Short Term Memory
Because nicotine makes you feel more alert, it should be no surprise that it can also temporarily improve your short-term memory, which is needed to remember tips from your basketball coach and learn new skills on the basketball court. Short-term memory is also important in basketball games, as it allows for quick thinking to shoot that winning score.
Nicotine Can Increase Your Energy and Confidence
For that needed boost while playing basketball, nicotine has been shown to increase your energy and confidence levels temporarily. A confident, energized player is sure to be a better basketball player than one that is tired and unable to focus. Studies have shown that athletes, regardless of sport, with higher self-confidence perform better than others.
Are There Non-Smoking Ways to Gain Nicotine Benefits?
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can gain the benefits of nicotine without resorting to smoking.
If you want the benefits of nicotine for basketball playing but do not want to endure the negative effects of cigarette smoking, there are a few over-the-counter options that offer nicotine for you without having to smoke. The three most common ones are:
Nicotine patches are small stickers you place on your arm to release nicotine into your bloodstream. The patches come in two strengths (21 mg and 24 mg), but the stronger dose is recommended for those trying to quit smoking.
You can wear a patch for up to 24 hours, and it can be hidden under clothing while you practice on the basketball court. Only use one patch a day, though, as 24 mg is plenty of nicotine for your body to handle (for reference, an average cigarette has around 10 mg of nicotine).
Nicotine gum is exactly what it says on the tin: it’s nicotine-infused gum you chew just like any old piece of gum. This is a discrete way of obtaining nicotine, as no one will be the wiser. Nicotine gum usually comes in two strengths (2 mg and 4 mg), and it comes in normal gum flavors (mint, cinnamon, etc.)
Chew a piece of nicotine gum about an hour before you have a basketball practice of a basketball game, and do not chew it for longer than 30 minutes. Do not have two pieces of gum at once and try to space out the time between pieces.
Nicotine lozenges are very similar to hard candy or cough drops: they are suckable tablets infused with enough nicotine to reap its benefits. They usually come with a normal taste, such as mint, and can be discreetly carried around to look like normal hard candy.
Nicotine lozenges also come in two strengths (2 mg and 4 mg), and have similar instructions to the nicotine gum. Use them an hour before practice or a game, do not swallow them, do not use more than one lozenge at a time, and try and space out the times when you take the lozenges. This ensures the safe use of the product.
Can You Improve Your Basketball Skills as a Smoker?
Despite nicotine having a few benefits to improving your skills as a basketball player, it is clear now that the risks of smoking while playing basketball far outweigh the benefits.
There are many other better habits you can do instead to improve your basketball skills. The most notable ones include, but are not limited to:
Maintain a Healthy Diet with Lots of Vitamins and Protein
A healthy diet is important for every athlete, whether they play basketball or not. Having balanced meals with proteins, good carbohydrates (such as fruit and unrefined grains), and unsaturated fats (nuts, seeds, etc.) can help you reach your peak performance as an athlete.
- Good carbohydrates will help you stay hydrated and maintain consistent energy.
- On the basketball court, proteins will help you build muscle and assist with vital cell functions.
- Unsaturated fats (albeit in moderation) will boost your brainpower and keep you feeling full longer.
Drink Lots of Water
Water is one of the best ways to stay hydrated whether or not you are an athlete. The average person should drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, but you should rehydrate at certain points in your routine when practicing or playing basketball.
It is recommended that you drink about 24 ounces of water before a basketball practice or game and try and rehydrate every 15 minutes if possible. Drink as much water as you feel like you need after you finish playing basketball to replenish any hydration you feel as though you have lost.
If you are not a huge fan of water, though, try and use flavor packets to give your drink a little more taste. Flavor packets come in all sorts of flavors and sizes, but do your research before you buy, as some packets may come with unwelcome ingredients such as corn syrup.
Alternatively, you can have a sports drink when you finish your exercise. Sports drinks have electrolytes that can replenish any of the hydration or salts you feel like you have lost during a basketball practice or a basketball game and come in plenty of flavors.
Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule, If Possible
Did you know it can take a month or longer for your body to get used to a new sleep schedule? Your body has a circadian rhythm and is thus used to getting up and going to sleep at certain times of the day, depending on your personal habits.
Most people usually need 7-9 hours of sleep a day, but you know your body best, so try and keep track of how long you usually sleep every night. Try and keep that length, as well as a consistent sleeping and waking up schedule, if possible.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The old saying is true: Practice does indeed make perfect! There are many ways you can practice your basketball skills, including:
- Ball handling: To do this, low dribble a basketball between your hands, exchanging it from one hand to the other. You can also run around the court with your ball, setting up little cones as a kind of obstacle course for you to dribble your ball past.
- Shooting the ball: This is rather self-explanatory. Practice various types of shots around a basketball goal, variating where you shoot your shots (i.e., the free-throw line/circle and the three-point line).
Does Quitting Smoking Make You a Better Player?
Quitting smoking will help your body recover from the negative effects of tobacco and render you able to improve your athletic ability, especially in basketball. The benefits include:
Quitting Smoking Can Improve Your Lung Efficiency
Within two weeks of quitting smoking, it has been shown that your lung function will increase. Within a month, there can be a reduction of shortness of breath while exercising. This is because your body filters out the chemicals in cigarette smoke in a short period, rendering it easier for you to breathe within weeks.
Quitting Smoking Can Improve Your Blood Circulation
Within two weeks of quitting smoking, it has been shown that your blood circulation will improve, which reduces your risk of a heart attack. As the cigarette smoke damages your blood vessels, thickening and narrowing them, quitting smoking will make them be able to relax again and better circulate blood around your body.
Quitting Smoking Will Help You Recover Faster
As your blood circulation increases after you quit smoking, it will make it easier for you to heal from any injury you sustain from the court, as well as any and all simple illnesses. The toxins in cigarette smoke make it harder for your body to heal naturally, and quitting will make you be able to return to the court in case of illness or injury in no time whatsoever.
Quitting Smoking Can Make Your Muscles Stronger
Cigarette smoke has been shown to be able to damage your muscles, but as your body cleanses itself of the toxins in cigarettes, blood will better circulate around your muscles. Thus, your muscles will strengthen without the effects of smoking.
It should be clear now that basketball players can smoke but should probably not for the sake of their health. Maintaining a healthy diet, exercise, and sleep schedule is much more beneficial for your playing ability, and there are safer ways to use nicotine than with tobacco products.
However, if you still want to smoke cigarettes, bear in mind the risks that smoking can give you in the long term. You can end up with permanently damaged lungs, infinitely high blood pressure, and be at a highly increased risk for death compared to your non-smoking athletes.
The positive effects of nicotine are better experienced with products that are not tobacco-based. Nicotine patches, gum, and lozenges are available online and at most major drugstores, allowing you to be discrete while using nicotine to improve your basketball performance.
But it is your body, and you choose what you do and do not do with it. So, if you still want to smoke and play basketball, then so be it. It is just better for you to improve your playing through healthier means, such as maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle and regularly practicing your game. Your body will thank you!