Smokeless tobacco, reaction time, and strength in athletes

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This study investigated the effects of smokeless tobacco on reaction time and strength in a group of Division III athletes.


Athletes were tested for simple and choice reaction time, maximum voluntary force, and maximum rate of force generation of the knee extensors on a KinCom dynamometer at 250°·s−1. Smokeless tobacco-using athletes (N = 20) were tested while both using and after abstaining from smokeless tobacco. Another group of athletes (N = 20) who did not use smokeless tobacco served as a control group.


Simple and complex reaction times were not affected by smokeless tobacco use or abstention. In the simple reaction time test, maximum voluntary knee extensor force was higher in the smokeless tobacco-using group while abstaining (P < 0.05). Maximum rate of force generation in the simple reaction time test was not statistically different between the conditions. In the choice reaction test, both strength parameters (maximum force and maximum rate of force generation) were higher in the user group while abstaining (P < 0.05) compared with the using condition. The strength parameter measurements in the control group were not statistically different from the tobacco-using group, while either using or abstaining.


We conclude that smokeless tobacco use has no effect on reaction time but may detrimentally influence maximum voluntary force and maximum rate of force generation.

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