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). 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Drug Free Sport Staff Weigh-in on Industry Trends Leading Into 2017

Contributed by Lara Gray, Director of Education

For this week’s blog, we interviewed a few of the staff at Drug Free Sport. We asked them to share insights from drug testing in 2016, and potential new (or repeating) trends in 2017.

LG: What, if anything, is changing in sport drug testing and analysis?
Staff: More and more, we are seeing professional sport leagues test blood samples as well as urine to ensure fair play. Amateur and institutional clients are beginning to look into oral fluid testing and other matrices as complementary features of their current drug testing program.

LG: Specific to the blood testing, what’s changing?
Staff: The World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) has validated Human Growth Hormone (hGH) biomarker analysis to compliement isoform testing for hGH. Essentially, they’re able to test for a greater detection window with the biomarker analysis that can show hGH up to two weeks after administration. Comparatively, isoform testing can detect hGH only within 24 – 48 hours of administration.

LG:  Is WADA validation important with new testing methods?
Staff: Of course. Many sport leagues look to the WADA Code and Prohibited Substances List as a gold standard. However, full implementation of WADA protocols can be difficult for clients that must also negotiate terms with their players unions through Collective Bargaining Agreements.

LG: What are sport organizations doing to work with the players unions and still provide effective drug testing programming?
Staff: “Smart” testing is becoming a new trend where we are seeing a shift to testing methodologies that efficiently and effectively use appropriate funds for deterrence testing. We are seeing this across the board for professional, amateur, and collegiate/institutional clients. Essentially, everyone is learning how to make the most of their drug-testing dollars and amplify the impact on deterrence.

LG: Are there any changes being made to the substances tested for in sport?
Staff: Nothing is changing dramatically in terms of the substances screened, even with marijuana which gets a lot of attention. We don’t anticipate any significant changes in marijuana testing as a result of the legislation efforts in several states across the country. Until there is a change from the Federal government, there likely won’t be a change in marijuana as a banned substance in sport. What has changed, however, is the conversation around marijuana—again, because of legalization in certain states.

LG: Can you elaborate? What has changed in the conversation?
Staff: There is a discussion targeting the social acceptability of marijuana—especially in the states where it is now legal for recreational use. We are providing more education on the different forms of marijuana use like edibles and concentrates, or that athletes may be using e-cigarettes or vape pens to mask their use on campus or within the sports facility. The potency of marijuana has changed dramatically over the last few years, which may be leading to higher dosages, longer lasting effects in the body, even addiction. For institutional collegiate clients, marijuana remains the largest concern on campuses.

LG: Are there other substances of concern looking ahead into 2017?
Staff: It’s hard to say what will be new in 2017, but there is growing concern over growth hormone releasing peptides (GHRPs) in professional sports, and the reemergence of anabolic steroids that were popular in the Eighties. SARMs, such as ostarine and LGD-4033, are also a concern as they are appearing in more supplement items and marketed as “legal”, which is absolutely false. Collegiately, there have been increasing requests for testing panels to include prescription narcotics and opiates. Prescription stimulants being used and abused without a prescription are also concerns on college campuses—we’ve even heard stories specific to athletes snorting amphetamines like Adderall.

LG: Sounds like there’s a lot going on! Are there any other trends you feel are important to share?
Staff: Probably the technology that surrounds drug-testing and third party administration of programs. For example, there are a number of researchers working on new technology that can detect certain drugs at lower specific gravity (or urine concentrations). Labs are also making strides to update machines that are “greener” in terms of efficiency. This helps decrease the turnaround time for receiving results which positively benefits the clients. We also know that there is a lot of work going into delivering appropriate protocols for testing transgender athletes. In January, we distributed our "Collection Procedures and Guidelines for Transgender Student-Athletes" to all of our collectors nationwide.

LG: Lastly, what impact (if any) do you feel the 2016 Russia doping issue has had on drug testing efforts in the US, or for Drug Free Sport specifically?
Staff: The impact is really just the importance of having independent administrators for drug-testing programs. A complete third-party that conducts athlete selection, administration of the program, conducts testing and works with WADA accredited labs, and provides accurate reports to the sport organization is critical. Their involvement must be completely separate and independently run. The Russia issues also increased the importance of consistency in communicating confidentiality and the code of ethics for drug testing to all of our certified collectors. Cyber security also becomes a larger concern in the wake of 2016.

LG: I think all of this is important to share and continue to discuss as we get further into 2017. Thanks for your time and insights!

For more information on any of the issues or topics discussed here, please email Lara Gray at lgray@drugfreesport.com.

Special thanks to the following staff members for their time and responses that made this blog possible: Ryan Willis, Sarah Ziegelmann, Allison Lathim, Ben Mosier, and Michaela Stemmons. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Why Should You Stay Hydrated All Year?

Dehydration is not only a risk during warmer weather, but also a significant issue in colder months. Failing to hydrate can cause serious damage to your body and overall health. Here are 4 reasons why you should stay hydrated throughout the year.

Boost Your Immune System

            The colder months are accompanied with much drier air, leading to dehydration. This causes your body to feel sluggish and run-down. Dry air can also increase your risk of catching a cold and/or the flu. Drinking water will help your body prevent and fight off these infections by supplying the body with the fluids it needs.  Water flushes toxins and ensures your cells are well oxygenated and full of nutrients.

Sweat It Out

            Perspiration is more noticeable in warm months, often visible as beads of sweat. Sweat in cold months turns into water vapor quickly, and is therefore less noticeable. To avoid dehydration, it is important to drink water throughout the day, especially before, during and immediately after a workout. Water helps to regulate body temperature.  

Maintain, Don’t Gain

            Your body is more likely to pack on extra pounds during colder months because exercise tends to decrease, and food intake tends to increase. However, with proper hydration, your body is able to turn fat into energy more efficiently. Energy is needed to avoid feeling lethargic during short winter days. Additionally, when adequately hydrated, your body is less likely to retain fluids and more likely to eliminate false hunger cues associated with dehydration. 

Keeps Things Moving

Graphic From U.S. Geological Survey

Hydration is vital to your body’s organs and digestion. Water carries nutrients and oxygen through the body, lubricates joints, and controls blood pressure. If your body is dehydrated by just 1-2%, your heart has to work harder because your blood is thicker than normal. Dehydration can cause muscle fatigue and cramps, loss of coordination and exhaustion.   

Tips & Tricks

·         Carry water around everywhere you go―all year long.
·         Eat water-rich fruits and veggies.
o   Lettuce: 95% water
o   Oranges: 88% water
o   Apples: 84% water
·         Know your sweat rate (see Hydration 411) to determine how much water you need before, during, and after exercise.
·         Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol while rehydrating.
·         Use an air humidifier to add moisture to the air and prevent illness. 
·         Add flavor to plain water such as lemons, cucumbers, limes, or other favorite fruit.

            Water does numerous things for your body. Staying hydrated in winter months may be more of a challenge, but it is important. Athletes and exercisers are particularly susceptible to dehydration due to the varying intensities of a workout. For more information about how much water to drink download these files: Assess Your Hydration and Hydrate Early & Often.