Why do football players put black under their eyes ? NFL players are often seen wearing black under their eyes. There are instances when it’s a real glob of grease and other times when it’s just a sticker. Whichever players opt for, these are supposed to assist in cutting down on glare and allow athletes to pick up the ball more easily. But does it really help?
A grease or strip called “eye black” is placed under the eyes to lessen glare effects. However, tests have not clearly demonstrated its efficacy. Players in sports like American football/NFL, baseball, softball, and lacrosse frequently use it to lessen the impact of glaring stadium floodlights or sunshine.
Eye black does improve the capacity to distinguish between light and dark, but it does not appear to minimize glare.
Appearance is another factor in why NFL footballers and other sportsmen wear eye-black stickers. Some athletes enjoy applying antiglare stickers to their faces to simulate battle paint. Other players aim to advertise biblical quotes, memorials, brands, and more using paint/stickers. Whatever the motivation, many players apply grease as a part of their competitive image.
Bright lighting can impair an athlete’s ability to see well and discern fine details. Additionally, they reduce the eye’s sensitivity to contrast, which is necessary for players to perceive a moving object more clearly.
What is Eye Black Made Of?
Athletes, both amateur and professional, have created eye black from a variety of materials over the years. Shoe polish and burned cork are a couple of ingredients used for the mixture. The majority of the grease version of the product on the market today is manufactured from beeswax, paraffin, and charcoal powder. The finished fabric used to create the antiglare stickers and strips has a matte surface.
Babe Ruth was the first professional sportsman to be seen wearing eye black, which happened in the 1930s. Ruth started using black grease to block out the sun’s glare during games. A few years later, Andy Farkas, a Washington Redskins football player, started using it while playing as well. More and more players would apply dark grease during games as the years passed.
Where Do NFL/Football Players Apply Eye Black?
Players can apply the grease/stickers 1-2 inches outside the nose and 1-2 inches below the eye. It’s crucial for players to avoid getting oil in their eyes because it could irritate and distort their vision.
Where Do NFL/Football Players Apply Eye Black?
When we watch a sports match, it is common to see the athletes with a black, horizontal line painted underneath each of their eyes. Many of us have grown up seeing players with these stripes but have not questioned their significance in the game or why people have them. Although not conclusively proven, it is a hypothesis that using eye black can help a player track the ball in the air easier.
The Theory Behind Using Eye Black
Black and white are not technically colors, as they are shades. When we see a white object, it is a combination of all the different wavelengths of colors reflecting on it. Black is the opposite; it is what we see when no light reflects on an object.
When a player is running across a field, there are many bright lights pointed in their direction, from the stadium lighting to the direct sunlight. This light can impede their depth perception and ability to catch the ball as it flies through the air. The eye black has the purpose of absorbing the interfering light better than the natural skin tone can, reducing the glare for the player.
What is Eye Black Made Of?
One of the earliest recorded instances of eye black was when Babe Ruth used grease, which many players copied in later years. This grease consisted of burnt cork ashes and shoe polish, both of which could be easily attained. Modern eye black grease contains beeswax, paraffin, and carbon soot.
Later, players began using eye black stickers. These became popular because they were easy to apply, and they did not leave much residue when players remove them at the end of a game. These stickers are usually made of patented fabric with an adhesive.
The Benefits of Using Eye Black
Babe Ruth, a successful baseball player in the early 1920s, popularized the trend of wearing black strips across his face. When other players caught on, they sometimes did it simply because it gave them a psychological advantage and enhanced the feeling of competitiveness.
Does Eye Black Work?
Experts in the field disagree about the quantifiable benefits of using eye black. Some think that the reduction of glare is significant, but it depends on the players’ eye color. Others insist that the traditional eye black grease is more effective than the new anti-glare stickers but there are few studies to back up the claim.
The hit TV show, MythBusters, tackled the question in an episode aired in 2008. The showrunners determined that while the reduction of glare was minimal, the black stripes were helpful while distinguishing between light and dark, e.g., when a dark ball was being thrown at them through the light sky.
Many players continue to draw the stripes across their faces with the mentality of keeping with tradition. For some, playing without the eye black may make them feel more vulnerable, and put them off their game.
Different eye black styles
Eye black is available in different forms, the most popular of which is the roll-on. With this product, the grease is applied directly on the skin. Another is the stick-on strip, which rose in popularity because it does not smear. The sticky adhesive at the back is what adheres to the skin, but this makes it prone to falling off due to sweat.
The stick-on strips have also been customized by players with messages to promote a cause, sometimes getting them fined in the process.
According to eyeblack.com, a company that develops and sells the product, “one of the strongest reflectors of light is one’s own skin, particularly the area under the eye.” They say that when light hits the cheek, it creates a distracting glare that causes one to squint.
During a football game, squinting would reduce the player’s vision range and could ultimately lead to the loss of a game- thus the “need” for black paint, which lessens glare.
Eye black grease’s effect on vision
But let’s not take their word for it- after all. they make money from marketing the stuff and touting its benefits. A study by the ophthalmology department of the Yale School of Medicine found that “eye black grease does appear to have anti-glare properties.”
There was approximately one level of sensitivity improvement for those who used the grease compared to those who didn’t. However, the study clarified that anti-glare stickers do not have the same effect.
Whether this increase in vision is significant enough to make or break a game is difficult to determine. One thing that’s certain about eye black though, is that it can help make a player look intimidating, determined to win, and pretty darned cool.
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