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William E. Prentice


When you finish this chapter you should be able to

  • Define the term drug.

  • Identify the various methods by which drugs can be administered.

  • Analyze pharmacokinetics relative to absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion.

  • Explain the difference between administering and dispensing medications.

  • Express legal concerns for administering medications to the athletic population.

  • Apply the various protocols that the athletic trainer should follow for administering over-the-counter medications to patients.

  • Categorize the various drugs that can be used to treat infection, reduce pain and inflammation, relax muscles, treat gastrointestinal disorders, treat symptoms of colds and congestion, and control bleeding.

  • Recognize the problem of substance abuse in the athletic population.

  • Describe the ergogenic aids used by athletes to improve performance.

  • Discuss the abuse of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco by athletes.

  • Evaluate drug-testing policies and procedures, and list the types of banned drugs.


  • pharmacology

  • drug

  • pharmacokinetics

  • drug vehicle

  • bioavailability

  • volume of distribution

  • efficacy

  • potency

  • biotransformation

  • Metabolism

  • half-life

  • steady state

  • administering drugs

  • dispensing drugs

  • over-the-counter drugs (OTC)

  • formulary

  • bioequivalent drugs

  • antibiotics

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

  • ergogenic aid

  • amphetamine

  • diuretic

  • anabolic steroids

  • human growth hormone (HGH)

  • recreational substance abuse

  • vaping

  • cannabidiol (CBD)

  • opioids

  • drug testing


Pharmacology is the branch of science that studies the actions of drugs on biological systems, especially drugs that are used in medicine for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Pharmaceutical care is the direct provision of medication-related care for the purpose of achieving definite outcomes that improve quality of life.37 Medications of all types, both prescription and over-the-counter, are as commonly used by athletes as they are by others in the population.42

Unfortunately, the abuse of various drugs and other substances for performance enhancement or for recreational mood alteration is also widespread among athletes. Thus, the athletic trainer must be knowledgeable about drug use and substance abuse within the population with which he or she works.37


A drug is a chemical agent used in the prevention, treatment, or diagnosis of disease.42 The use of substances for the express purpose of treating some infirmity or disease dates back to early history. The ancient Egyptians were highly skilled in making and using medications, treating a wide range of external and internal conditions.

Many of our common drugs, such as aspirin and penicillin, are derived from natural sources. Historically, medications were composed of roots, herbs, leaves, or other natural materials that were identified as having, or were believed to have, medicinal properties. Today many medications that originally came from nature are produced synthetically.


Pharmacokinetics is the method by which drugs are absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and eliminated or excreted by the body. The term pharmacodynamics is often ...

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