Home > Harmful alcohol consumption in elite sports players in Ireland.

Murray, Kieran and Murphy, Colm and Herlihy, Ann and McCaffrey, Jack and Codd, Mary and Murray, Frank E (2022) Harmful alcohol consumption in elite sports players in Ireland. Irish Journal of Medical Science, 191, (5), pp. 2091-2098. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11845-021-02819-5.

External website: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC85457...

Background: Sportspeople are more prone to binge drink than their peers. We aimed to assess alcohol consumption, harms and behaviours in an elite Irish sporting population (Gaelic footballers and hurlers). 

Methods: An anonymous web-based questionnaire (demographics, alcohol consumption, culture and related harms) was administered to all elite players. The AUDIT-C questionnaire (frequency, quantity of alcohol consumption and frequency of binge drinking) was used to assess for adverse alcohol use. Univariate and multivariate analyses assessed for predictors of adverse alcohol use. 

Results: 717 players (mean age 24 years) were analysed. The majority of patients were male (75%), unmarried (93%) and had completed university (67%). 96% were current drinkers. Players consumed more alcohol during the off-season (median 20 versus 8 standard drinks in 28 days) compared to the elite season. Amongst current drinkers, 73% exhibit adverse alcohol use, 93% reported binge drinking and 65% an alcohol related harm in the past year. Most players would turn to family (36%) or friends (21%) for help. There were significant associations between monthly bingeing (OR 18.4), smoking (OR 3.3), generally drinking in public (OR 3.2), current gambling (OR 2.3), male gender (OR 2.1), an alcohol harm in the past year (OR 1.9) and adverse alcohol use. In contrast, co-habiting with a partner (OR 0.5) was protective. 

Conclusions: Excess alcohol consumption, alcohol related harms and binge drinking are prevalent in an elite sporting population, particularly during the off-season. Specific strategies are required to reduce alcohol related harms, particularly amongst high-risk groups during the off-season.

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