How do drugs and alcohol affect sports participation?

This topic submitted by Danielle Gossett. Sean Roper, Jane Frye ( ) on 12/19/03 .
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Natural Systems 1 Syllabus---Western Program---Miami University

Our question is how do drugs and alcohol affect sports participation. We hypothesize that drugs adversely affect sports participation. Nicotine, caffeine, marijuana, and alcohol abuse cause a change in the participant and influences the person’s abilities.
We decided on this project from our mutual interest in sports and curiosity with how drugs affect it. We wondered whether people who played sports often did drugs, what drugs and also why they did those drugs.
We plan to look at the correlation between drug use and participation in sports and how each person whether they use drugs or not or play sports or not, comes to their decision.

Background Info

This experiment will focus on the affects of four substances on an athlete. “Many athletes use certain substances because they assume that these drugs have no adverse effect on performance. A partial list of these ergolytic drugs includes alcohol, marijuana, smokeless tobacco, and caffeine (“Simply Fit”).” The ways in which those four substances, nicotine, caffeine, marijuana, and alcohol, influence participation will be discussed in this paper.

Nicotine is a substance abused by many athletes. Baseball players are infamous for “dipping” or placing chewing tobacco inside their lips. Another form nicotine comes in is cigarettes. Whether this nicotine gets into the body through smoke from cigarettes or directly into the bloodstream through chewing tobacco, it causes harm to the body.
“Teen smokers find it hard to engage in physical activity when doing so results in a pounding heart and shortness of breath. They are also more apt to get colds and pneumonia (“Smoking”).” If an athlete can not breathe when doing physical activity, it is likely that the athlete will struggle to keep up with others and therefore not engage in such activities. Every sport requires some form of heightened breathing in which the participant would struggle to receive air. “Smokers suffer from shortness of breath almost 3 times more often than nonsmokers (“Facts on sports”).” Also, being sick with a
cold or other ailment hinders an athlete from exerting full energy and ability in a sport.

Nicotine is considered a stimulant and has short term affects of “loss of energy and
motivation (“Drugs and the female athlete”).” Without energy and motivation, an athlete
is less likely to participate in a certain sport. One article states that “participation in
sports/exercise is negatively related to smoking (“Physical activity”).” This only
supports the evidence that the use of nicotine sways sports participation.

Another substance commonly abused that hinders sport participation is caffeine.
“People who consume caffeine before they exercise alter their cardiovascular system,
placing greater demands on their heart, says a South Dakota State University study (“E
News”).” Placing this type of strain on the heart only makes an athletes job more
difficult. Often caffeine is overlooked when it comes to substance abuse. “Caffeine may
be the most widely used stimulant in the world (“Caffeine and exercise performance”).”
This substance is found in my common beverages and in high doses can “increase heart
rate and induce headaches (“Resource Sheet”).” Athletes suffering from high heart rates
and headaches are not likely to be at peak performance and will likely be replaced by
another who does not suffer these symptoms, therefore preventing that person from

Marijuana also influences sports participation. Marijuana can cause a person to
“lose interest in sports and lose energy or motivation (“Fried”).” These factors add up
against an athlete and hinder participation in sports. “Studies show marijuana affects
alertness, concentration, participation, coordination, and reaction time (“Health”).” All
of these qualities are needed to successfully compete in any sport. Although 70% of
males and 53% of females who participate in sports are less likely to abuse marijuana
(“MCH alert”), the ones who do are at a severe disadvantage, not only in the competitive
sense but also in their health.

The final substance to be studied is alcohol. “Alcohol depresses the central
nervous system and contracts brain tissue (“How alcohol affects the body”).” In plain
terms: alcohol kills brain cells. Any athlete will tell you that brain cells are essential to
competing in a sport. “Adolescents who drink alcohol heavily can develop significant
impairments in their ability to remember new information (“Diseases and Conditions”).”
Alcohol makes it hard for people to pick up on new ideas or techniques for a sport and
can put an athlete behind. Alcohol can also weaken the immune system and cause
memory loss or chronic fatigue (“Alcohol”). These symptoms prevent an athlete from
being at their top level of performance and may discourage interest in sports. Alcohol is
also high in calories and can lead to obesity (“Harmful Substances”). Athletes strive to
be in the best physical health possible and this excludes carrying extra weight. Alcohol
abuse is bad for a person’s health and has no positive affects on sports participation.

These four substances obviously play a key role in affecting an athlete’s sports
participation. When abused these substances have negative affects on the mind and body
and work against a person who is trying to be active in a sport.

For this experiment we plan on using a survey to collect data samples about people’s drug use and sports participation. Each survey will have a disclaimer at the top stating our purpose of the survey, what we plan to use the data for, and the anonymity of each survey. We came to the conclusion that we would sample approximately 100 students regardless of campus housing. The reason why we excluded possible difference in campus housing is because we are confident that the drug community is not represented on one campus more than the other in comparison to the number of students overall living in each campus. We decided to test for four different drugs, along with how frequently each student uses them, on the survey and the number of sports, as well as the hours of participation, and each student participates in.
After taking surveys we plan to follow up with interviews. The people being interviewed will be randomly selected on no particular basis. We will interview eight people who do a lot of drugs and eight people who do little or no drugs. All sixteen of these people will find sports important. For legal purposes, we will not include marijuana in the interviews. To make it simpler, we will choose the drug most widely used by people. In the interviews we will have questions that focus on why the person does or does not do drugs, how they feel that has affected their participation in sports, would they consider cutting back for the sake of sports, and so on. We plan on using the class as a focus group where we will ask them similar questions from the interviews and surveying them. Our data will be done statistically by continuous vs. continuous using regressions and correlations.

Our Day

We plan on presenting this experiment to the class through a PowerPoint presentation. We feel that a PowerPoint presentation will prove to visually display our experiment design, survey, and results best to our class audience so that they will understand and follow our oral class presentation. A PowerPoint presentation is the best way to explain the conclusions we derived from our experiment while showing the class the data we collected from which we drew our conclusions. Our PowerPoint presentation will also include our research from different articles and sources as well as our hypothesis to which our conclusions can be compared. Our day is November 6th.

Research Time Line
Distribution of Surveys- Week One- October 27-November 2
Interviews- Week Two- November 3-November 9
Our Day in Class- November 6


We used a correlation to find our statistics. We concluded that the results for marijuana and nicotine were inconclusive. We did two correlation tests; one of alcohol vs. sports hours and one of caffeine vs. sport hours. For alcohol, we found the p-value to be greater then .05. We failed to reject the null hypothesis and conlude that the use of alcohol does not affect sports participation. For caffeine, we found the p-value to be greater then .05. We failed to reject the null hypothesis and conlude that the use of caffeine does not affect sports participation.

We did nine interviews where we asked these three questions:

1-If you participate often in sports and also partake in drug use of any kind, why?
2-If you participate often in sports and restrain from any kind of drug use, why?
3-If you participate often in sports and also partake in drug use of any kind, are concerned with your participation in sports?

We found that the majority of people not only participated in sports but continued with drug use. Their reasons were that they felt that their drug use had no affect on their participation in sports.

Discussion and Conclusion

Past research has found that drugs do have an adverse affect on sports participation but our findings are different. We believe this is so because people believe that drugs have no affect and are no aware of the adverse effects on their body and sports participation.

Works Cited


“Caffeine and Exercise Performance”

“Diseases and Conditions”

“Drugs and the Female Athlete”

“E News #101”

“Facts on Sports and Smoke Free Youth”


“Harmful Substances”


“How Alcohol Affects the Body”

“MCH Alert”

“Physical Activity and Smoking in Adolescents”

“Resources Sheet”

“Simply Fit”


Moolchan, Eric T.; Aung, A. Thiri; Henningfield, Jack E. pp. 223 - 232, Treatment of adolescent tobacco smokers: issues and opportunities for exposure reduction approaches, National Institute on Drug Abuse

John, Ulrich; Hill, Andreas; Rumpf, H.-J.; Hapke, U.; Meyer, C. pp. 189 - 195, Alcohol high risk drinking, abuse and dependence among tobacco smoking medical care patients and the general population

Kohn, Carolynn S.; Tsoh, Janice Y.; Weisner, Constance M. pp. 61 - 71, Changes in smoking status among substance abusers: baseline characteristics and abstinence from alcohol and drugs at 12-month follow-up

Giancola, Peter R. pp. 263 ‹ 274, Irritability, acute alcohol consumption and aggressive behavior in men and women

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