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Why do footballer players spit so much? © Getty

Why do football players spit so much?

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Blame it on the protein...

Asked by: John Farrugia, Qormi, Malta

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Several studies have shown that exercise increases the amount of protein secreted into the saliva, especially a kind of mucus called MUC5B. This mucus makes the saliva thicker, which makes it harder to swallow, so we spit it out. It isn’t clear why we produce more MUC5B when exercising, but it may be because we breathe through our mouth more, so the mucus stops the mouth from drying out.

Some sports, such as basketball and tennis, penalise players for spitting, but football and rugby don’t, so the players are free to expectorate!

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Authors

luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.

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