Academic journal article Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education

Blood (Breath) Alcohol Concentration Rates of College Football Fans on Game Day

Academic journal article Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education

Blood (Breath) Alcohol Concentration Rates of College Football Fans on Game Day

Article excerpt

Alcohol use and abuse represent a well-documented public health concern and one pertinent to college campuses. According to the Core Alcohol and Other Drug Survey national data sample (2006), 84% of college students report using alcohol at least once in the previous year, and 72% consumed alcohol at least once during the previous month. Researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) estimate there were 1,825 unintentional alcohol related deaths in 2005. Furthermore, the proportion of college students who reported engaging in high-risk drinking, consuming five or more drinks on at least one occasion during the past month, increased significantly from 41.7% in 1998 to 44.7% in 2005. Equally concerning, this government study revealed nearly a third (29%) of college students reported driving under the influence within the past year, a statistically significant increase of 9% from 1998 to 2005 (Hingson, Zha, & Weitzman, 2009).

Alcohol consumption on game day represents a particularly problematic issue for university officials. For the purposes of this study, game day refers to the day of an on campus football event. Studies indicate drinking rates increase on game day when compared to other social occasions among students and other college football fans (Glassman, Werch, Jobli, & Bain, 2007; Nelson & Wechsler, 2002; Prevention File, 2008). Certain college football games result in more alcohol consumption than others, including homecoming, contests between interstate rivals, and high profile games such as league championships and bowl games (Neighbors, Oster-Aaland, & Bergstrom, 2006; Neal & Fromme, 2007). This type of drinking has been referred to as extreme ritualistic alcohol consumption, defined as consuming 10 or more drinks for a male, and eight or more drinks for a female on game day (Glassman, Dodd, Sheu, Rienzo, & Wagenaar, 2010). At one large school in the Southeast, 16% of the student population engaged in this behavior while 36% consumed five or more drinks on game day (Glassman et al., 2010).

To deter students and fans from consuming alcohol in excess, some universities have implemented protective health policies. In a study published in USA Today (2005), 96% of colleges surveyed indicated their athletic departments had a policy concerning alcohol at athletic events. Additionally, 71% of surveyed universities reported designating tailgating areas on campus on game day, but only 10% kept those zones alcohol free. Other universities restrict the time allowed to tailgate prior to football games. For example, one university in the Big 12 decided to limit tailgating to three hours prior to the start of their Homecoming game in response to inappropriate behavior during previous tailgating events (Pollock, 2008). During athletic contests most universities ban the sale of alcoholic beverages (Bormann & Stone, 2001; National Collegiate Athletic Association, 2008). The NCAA (2008), reports that of its 627 members, 92% indicated that alcoholic beverages were not sold at sporting events (Alcohol Prevention Coalition, 2010).

Some students and fans drink excessively on game day due in part to misperceived norms concerning alcohol use associated with tailgating. In general, most students overestimate the amount of alcohol consumed by their peers, thereby creating what Perkins (2003) terms imaginary peers perpetuating pluralist ignorance. In an attempt to fit in with their peers, students may drink more to meet a false perceived norm (Haines, 1998; Prentice & Miller, 1993). Social norm research concerning game day drinking rates reveals that students overestimate how much alcohol their peers consume. Neighbors, Oster-Aaland, & Bergstrom, (2006) found that 77% of undergraduates consumed alcohol while tailgating and on average had 3.8 drinks. Ironically, participants under-estimated the percentage of tailgaters who consumed alcohol but overestimated how much they drank. …

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