Some students enter college expecting ample opportunities to party. They may expect to party on weekends, after a big exam and to celebrate holidays and sports victories. What may not occur to some students is the significant impact on one’s health and safety that heavy drinking can exact.
There are multiple risks associated with college binge drinking. Students engaging in binge drinking (usually measured by at least four drinks for women and five drinks for men in one occasion) are at increased risk for injury, involvement in assaults and risky sexual behaviors that can lead to the contraction of a sexually transmitted disease or an unplanned pregnancy.
As reported in an article on the NCAA web site, studies repeatedly show that athletes drink more alcohol than the general student population, even though athletes tend to be exposed to more strategies for prevention and education.
Performance is one major area that can be affected by excessive drinking among student athletes. Loss of balance and coordination can lead to difficulties maintaining performance following alcohol consumption. Sports-related injuries can also increase after drinking, as well as decreased immune system function and healing ability following an injury on the court or field.
Those who drink heavily on a regular basis may also experience vitamin deficiencies, further limiting immune system function. Similarly, alcohol can prevent the absorption of nutrients such as magnesium, calcium and B vitamins.
In addition, performance can be affected by the diuretic properties of alcohol, causing dehydration that impacts athletic ability. Dehydration can increase temperature, cause rapid heart rate and induce overall fatigue.
Sleep, an important health element for those that work their bodies, can also be impacted. While a heavy bout of drinking may cause the drinker to pass out easily, their sleep may be restless.
Methods of mixing alcohol, like high-calorie drinks such as juice, soda or a sugary garnish, may serve to slow down the athlete after it is converted to fat.
For men, the consumption of alcohol can even affect muscle mass. Alcohol can reduce testosterone production, which can in turn negatively affect muscle mass.
The article recommends that athletes discontinue alcohol consumption at least 48 hours before competing to ensure optimum athletic performance. They should also take steps to rehydrate and consume adequate amounts of food following heavy drinking.
College athletes can also finding alternatives to drinking in order to relieve stress from academic and athletic demands. Adequate sleep, exercise and time with friends can be healthy ways to reduce stress without alcohol.
Coaches and athletic administrators can also maximize athletic performance by talking with their athletes about the dangers of celebrating victories with alcohol. Alcohol-free social events following a game on campus may help student athletes avoid heavy drinking.