Alcohol and Athletes at a Glance
Below is a recap of points made on the nature and magnitude of alcohol use among high school and college athletes and how best to approach the problem.
An increasing number of high school and college athletes either binge drink or abstain, with fewer students reporting moderate intake. Female and male athletes drink at the same rates. HED rates are nearly the same.
Athletes drink alcohol as frequently and as intensely as non-athletes, with the difference between male athletes and non-athletes greater than that between female athletes and non-athletes. Athletes in contact sports report greater alcohol use. Athletes in team sports report greater use than individual sports.
Drinking usually starts by high school, often in junior high.
Drinking rates only continue in one direction up and up and up.
The physiological effects of alcohol are mostly related to intermittent use with regard to lost training effect and diminished athletic performance. Additional harm from alcohol use by athletes is behavioral, legal, academic, and social, all of which can lead to sports eligibility and participation problems. Therefore, education and prevention efforts should focus not only on the physiological negative impact but as well as academic, behavioral, legal, social, and sports-participation consequences of alcohol use.
Athletes who drink do not necessarily experience more legal or behavioral consequences than other students who drink, but athletes are often more visible, and their problems often lead to highly publicized consequences.
Educational and preventive interventions should be initiated and led by student-athletes and be sport specific. Athletic directors and coaches should provide the proper environment, enforcement, and sanctions. Random or mandatory testing is probably not helpful but deserves further study.
Multiple educational approaches to address alcohol may be necessary for various athletes because no preferred approach exists.
Alcohol remains the most used and abused drug in America. Unfortunately, many of the users and abusers are high school students. According to AAI Surveys, 80+% of high school students, grades 9-12, indicate they have had at least one drink of alcohol during their lifetime. Results from the same survey indicate 52% reported having at least one drink in the last thirty days and 37% consumed five or more drinks in a row during the last thirty days!
Many national studies have reported that high school student-athletes drink alcohol at about the same rate as other high school students and some studies report slightly higher use by student-athletes. The latest AAI survey indicates 58.5% of high school student-athletes, grade 12, drank during the past year.
There are many reasons why student-athletes choose not to drink alcohol. Among those reasons are the values taught by their parents, the positive influence of their coaches and teammates, the possible negative effects on athletic performance, and the possibilities of penalties/sanctions if they're caught.
More than any other group of adolescents, we have a compelling reason for athletes not to drink, health and performance. Alcohol, a metabolic poison has only negative effects on all physiological parameters. This can be our initial rationale for non-use. The following are some of the additional benefits for student-athletes who choose not to drink alcohol:
Academic or athletic performance will not be hampered;
The risk of breaking school rules or the law is greatly reduced;
Serious and life threatening problems related to being alcohol impaired such as drunk driving and sexual decision- making, injury, arrest, death are eliminated or reduced;
There is risk of becoming addicted to alcohol; and,
The ability to develop appropriate life skills such as stress management, problem solving, conflict resolution, interacting with others, and goal setting is enhanced.
Most young people would only be influenced by the first two benefits, as they are more tangible and more immediate. The latter three fall into the category of “not me.”
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