Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Friday, April 7, 2017

FREE Stress Management Apps for Athletes

 Contributed by Anna Filardo, Education Program Manager

An athlete's mental health is a vital component of their overall well-being, and can also play a significant role in sports performance outcomes. Whether the athlete is competing at the high school, collegiate, or professional/elite level, it is important to arm them with tools to address the cerebral side of sport. Some of the easiest tools to add to an athlete's toolbox are mobile applications (apps) that are easily downloaded right to their smartphone and support activities of daily livingor in this case, well-being. In this post you'll find reviews (in no particular order) of four different apps that address anxiety and stress management. Try them out, share them with athletes you know, and use the comments to tell us which one you prefer the most!

SAM: Self-Help for Anxiety Management

Synopsis of the App:
SAM helps the user to understand and manage anxiety through daily tracking, breathing exercises, and support.

Platform and Price:
Free. Available via iOS/Apple and Google Play.

  • Developed by a team of university-based psychologists, computer scientists and student users.
  • Ability to track anxiety and how users are feeling in that moment.
  • Allows the user to determine different triggers for anxiety, allowing them to potentially avoid these situations or to be better prepared in the future.
  • SAM employs techniques such as breathing exercises, picture reveals, and relaxation.
  • Social Cloud is a place where users can communicate with each other. This is a great tool to recognize that anxiety affects many people, and allows users to share messages with others using the app.
  • Easy to take on-the-go and alleviate anxiety the moment it hits.
  • Provides educational information about anxiety, common anxiety symptoms and triggers.

  • The app does not notify users when someone comments on their Social Cloud posts.
  • There is not a walk-through for the Muscle Relaxation or Tense-and-Relax Exercise techniques.

Bottom Line:
Anxiety can happen at any time to anyone. SAM guides the user through anxiety management and helps track what triggers a panic or anxiety attack. It’s an ideal app for anyone that experiences extreme stress and/or anxiety.

Personal Zen

Synopsis of the App:
Personal Zen is a game-based app that teaches the user to focus on the positive, instead of the negative.

Platform and Price:
Free. Available via iOS/Apple.

  • Scientifically-validated.
  • Based on 20 years of brain training and anxiety-reduction research.
  • Directions for the game are easy to follow and understand.
  • A great app for avoiding and decreasing stress/anxiety.
  • Helps the user to focus on the happy face.
  • User can set a goal for the amount of the time they participate in the activity each week.
  • Easy way to zone out and allow for a mindless moment.
  • Since it is an app it is easy to take on-the-go and alleviate anxiety in the moment.
  • Does not require users to participate in the activity for a long amount of time (1-2 min/day).
  • Background music is calming.

  • Activity is repetitive and may get boring.
  • Activity is easy.
  • May pose issues to those that have been diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or are anxious about being perfect. Since users have to touch every piece of grass in the game, it may cause more issues than it solves.
  • Not yet available on Android devices.

Bottom Line:
This app is more about mindlessness and zoning out for a short period of time. While it may seem easy to some, it is effective in focusing on the positive face.


Synopsis of the App:
Pacifica provides daily tools for stress and anxiety and provides a built-in support community.

Platform and Price:
Free. Available via iOS/Apple, Android, and Web.

  • Track feelings and write about what is going on in the moment.
  • Create a Hope Board with pictures, goals, inspiration, etc.
  • Set small goals. There are some daily goals already outlined within the app that help motivate the user to reach overall goals.
  • Tap the goal when completed and record the difficulty of completing it.
  • Track and log different anxiety traps and triggers.
  • Shows the user their personal connection between emotions, thoughts, and experiences.
  • Teaches how to reframe the situation (i.e. What could you have done differently to allow for a better outcome?).
  • Tracks sleep and exercise.
  • Guides users through various techniques to manage stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Includes verbal instructions for breathing exercises, meditation, and muscle relaxation.
  • Community posts allow users to talk to others about shared experiences or hardships.
  • Easy to take anywhere and track anxiety/stress in the moment.

  • Must pay for some “Thought” tracking techniques.

Bottom Line:
Pacifica is a valuable tool for people susceptible to anxiety or stress. It allows users to track their stressors and learn ways to cope and avoid these situations.


Relax Melodies

Synopsis of the App:
Relax Melodies provides users with white noise and meditation to help them fall asleep.

Platform and Price:
Free. Available via iOS/Apple and Google Play.

  • Users are able to select different sounds they like and put them together.
  • "Melodies" section allows users to submit their favorite sounds.
  • Ability to submit a personal sound mix so others can listen.
  • Add and delete sounds to allow users to go back to the sounds that work the best.
  • Ability to vary the volume of each sound selected.
  • Great for traveling, especially when accustomed to white noise (such as a fan on at home).
  • Relax Melodies notify users when it is time for bed based on the time set as a target.
  • Timer: set the white noise to stop after 30 minutes or play through the night.
  • Alarm function can wake users up with white noise.
  • Guided meditation helps users clear the mind and fall asleep.
  • Easy to take on-the-go.
  • Clean platform and easy to navigate.

  • Some saved sounds are only available on the paid version.
  • The user must upgrade to the Pro/paid version in order to utilize all guided meditations.

Bottom Line:
Relax Melodies is a great app that provides white noise, meditation and relaxation for those that have insomnia or difficulty falling asleep.

Which is your favorite? Use the comments below to share!

**Please note that our reviews are not a product endorsement of any mobile application and should not be seen as such. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Vaping: What's it all about?

Contributed by Anna Filardo, Education Program Manager

Image Credt: fda.gov (1)

Vaping has continued to increase in use and popularity. New federal regulations have recently been established and research on long-term use of vaporizers is growing. This post presents current information and potential dangers of vaping.

  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) go by various names.

    • Vaporizer, vape pens, hookah pens, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), and e-pipes.(1)

  • "E-Liquids" (the fluid mixture that is vaporized) vary, and may include:

    • Nicotine, marijuana, propylene glycol, and/or flavored glycerin are most common.(1)
    • Formaldehyde or acetaldehyde have also been found.(2)
    • Ethanol (or alcohol) is frequently used and could lead to a future alcohol dependence. (4)
    • Toxic metal nanoparticles from the vaping mechanism.(3)

  • ENDS vs. Cigarette Smoking.


  • Long-term health consequences remain unclear.

    • Users may suffer from "Popcorn Lung", due to the presence of diactetyl.(5)
    • "The brain is the last organ in the human body to develop fully. Nicotine exposure during periods of significant brain development, such as adolescence, can disrupt the growth of brain circuits that control attention, learning, and susceptibility to addiction." -U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy (6)

  • The FDA has recently gained regulatory authority over ENDS, beginning August 2016.(1)

    • It will take up to 2 years for the FDA to fully evaluate all 500 brands and 7,700 e-liquid flavors.(7) 

  • Vaporizers can be used to mask the smell of marijuana.

    • Marijuana concentrates or "hash oil" (which can contain up to 90% THC) can be added to e-liquid.(8)
    • "Pure CBD Oil" for vape pens is easily purchased via the internet. Video: CBD vs. THC
*Image of actual product submitted to Drug Free Sport AXIS™.

Friday, February 10, 2017

2017 Drug Free Sport Continuing Education Award (Certified Athletic Trainers)

By Gene Willis, Director of Marketing

As a part of our overall service of the student-athlete communities, we work daily with certified athletic trainers from around the country. We hear about the challenges that they face with their around-the-clock schedules, putting their athletes first and working to grow in their chosen professions. They’re trusted with the most intimate details of a student-athlete’s life, along with their overall health and recovery. It’s far more than the taping and health care management. These men and women are on the front lines of sharing information about drug abuse, dietary supplement information and overall well-being.

It’s for these reasons that Drug Free Sport created a Continuing Education Award,  specific to certified athletic trainers working in high schools and collegiate communities. In the past five years, Drug Free Sport has awarded more than $23,000 to talented health care professionals. Here’s a few of our recent winners:

All applications must be completed by Friday, March 31, 2017. Awards, at a minimum of $1,000 each, will be announced by the week of May 1, made payable to the employing educational institution or non-for-profit entity and the certified athletic trainer.

If you have questions, please contact Gene Willis, Director of Marketing, at Drug Free Sport (gwillis@drugfreesport.com).