Alcohol: Use and abuse and its effects on performance

Alcohol (Ethanol) is the oldest and most used and abused recreational drug around the world amongst adults, athletes, and even teen athletes. Alcohol is a leading cause of death among teenagers. It contributes to adolescent motor vehicle crashes, injuries, suicide, date rape, and family and school problems. Over 50% of teenaged athletes under the age of 16 have experimented with recreational alcohol, and 30% of these teens have reported dangerous levels of drinking which means five or more drinks in one setting. Over 11, 000 teens on average per day try alcohol for the first time and over 1,500 college students die from an alcohol related incident every year. It has been proven that teens who start drinking under the age of 15 are 4-5 times more likely to develop alcoholism than those individuals who begin at the age of 21.

What is alcohol? Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it slows the nervous system down hindering the ability to react and perform. It decreases motor skill function including fine tune motor skill such as hand eye coordination. Alcohol impairs judgment, clouds vision, and commonly leads young athletes and irresponsible adults to make poor decisions, like getting behind the wheel of a car. The rate at which alcohol should be consumed, by those of legal age is one drink per hour. Any more than that can be considered dangerous. Studies have shown that just one drink the night before competition or game can hinder performance.

Many teens use alcohol as a means to fit in and or feel accepted. Most teen athletes are introduced to alcohol through peer pressure. Lives are lost and families are compromised every year by the carelessness of alcohol use. The best way to stop alcohol use in teen athletes is to communicate and educate them about the subject and dangers of alcohol, teach them it is ok to say no, and to help them feel their importance in life.

Chad Waelchli MS, CSCS, SPARQ

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