Academic journal article Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education

Hazardous Drinking by First-Year College-Athletes: The Differential Roles of Drinking Motives, Alcohol Consequences, and Season Status

Academic journal article Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education

Hazardous Drinking by First-Year College-Athletes: The Differential Roles of Drinking Motives, Alcohol Consequences, and Season Status

Article excerpt


College student-athletes and first-year students are two undergraduate populations at risk for heavy-episodic drinking and alcohol-related negative consequences. In this study, 63 (56% female, 62% Caucasian) first-year student-athletes completed a preliminary questionnaire assessing demographic characteristics, athlete-specific drinking motives, alcohol-related negative consequences, and season status. Scores of five or more on the ,4 UDIT-C defined the at-risk subsample. Participants who met the criteria for hazardous drinking (n = 19) reported higher levels of alcohol-related negative consequences and drinking motives. A logistic regression, with these variables, successfully distinguished between the two groups. Sport-related coping2, and positive reinforcement drinking motives, emerged as the most robust predictors of hazardous drinking. Implications for screening, prevention, and brief intervention strategies for first-year student-athletes are discussed.

Keywords: college student-athlete, First-year student, drinking motives, alcohol use


Problematic alcohol consumption by undergraduate students remains a significant public health issue on college campuses in the United States. Among college students, student-athletes are a population of students at increased risk for heavy episodic drinking (i.e., on at least one occasion in the past 2 weeks, consuming five or more drinks in one sitting for men and consuming four or more drinks for women; Ford, 2007; Nelson & Wechsler, 2001). A breadth of research has demonstrated that college student-athletes engaged in more heavy episodic drinking occasions, endorsed drinking more on peak drinking occasions, and reported getting drunk more frequently than their non-athlete peers (Turrisi, Mastroleo, Mallett, Larimer, & Kilmer, 2007). According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA; 2012), over 83% of college student-athletes reported past year alcohol consumption and approximately 49% of those reporting heavy episodic drinking on one or more occasions.

Heavy episodic drinking exposes college student-athletes to a number of psychosocial and physical alcohol-related negative consequences (Martens, Dams-O'Connor, & Beck, 2006). Indeed, student-athletes have been shown to experience alcohol-related consequences at higher rates compared to their non-athlete peers (Nelson & Wechsler, 2001). These negative consequences range from experiencing academic problems such as missing class to serious physiological issues such as memory loss because of heavy alcohol consumption. Rates of alcohol-related negative consequences among college student-athletes are alarming. Among student-athletes, nearly 1-in-4 reported that they had driven a car while under the influence and 36% reported getting into a fight or argument because of their alcohol use at least once during the past year (NCAA, 2012).

Given these concerning trends, researchers have attempted to identify the contextual and motivational factors that influence college student-athlete high-risk drinking behaviors. In a longitudinal study of college student-athlete drinking patterns, Martens, Dams-O'Connor, and Duffy-Paiement (2006) found that alcohol use and alcohol-related negative consequences decreased during the competitive season. These findings indicate that alcohol use among student-athletes is at its peak during the off-season when there are fewer athletic performance-related demands.

Specific drinking motives that are unique to student-athletes have been found to be a robust predictor of alcohol consumption during both the competitive season and off-season (Martens & Martin, 2010). Martens, Watson, Royland, and Beck (2005) identified three categories of student-athlete drinking motives, (a) positive reinforcement (e.g., I drink to celebrate athletic victories), (b) sport-related stress and coping (e.g., I drink to help me deal with poor performances), and (c) team/group (e. …

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