Spring football begins; so does the drinking

By Mickie Anderson • Published: May 11th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

For hard-core college football fans, this is the time of year they get their first glimpse of the season to come, when players and coaches take the field for intersquad skirmishes and spring practices.

But for many, it’s also the start of another season: heavy drinking season.

In what may be the first study in the United States to measure blood-alcohol levels following professional sports events, University of Minnesota researchers found that one of every twelve fans leaving major sporting events is intoxicated.

The researchers stopped nearly four hundred adult fans after thirteen baseball and three football games and found that eight percent of fans they surveyed had a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher, the legal mark for intoxication in many states.

The researchers found pre-game tailgaters were fourteen times more likely to still be drunk when the game ended.

While drinking in on-campus football stadiums is almost always prohibited, tailgating is, in some places, regarded as an integral part of college football.

The researchers found that fans under thirty-five were nine times more likely to be drunk than older fans.

One of every four tailgating fans told researchers they had five or more alcoholic drinks before the game. And those with the highest blood-alcohol levels had between six and seven drinks before the game, the researchers said.

The research team asked fans exiting sporting events to submit to a voluntary breathalyzer test and a five-minute verbal survey.

They called the results an obvious public safety hazard.

Perhaps most alarming: Researchers said the most frequently cited reason fans had for not wanting to participate in the survey? They were in a hurry to beat the traffic leaving the stadium.