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Are Drinking Games Sports? College Athlete Participation in Drinking Games and Alcohol-Related Problems

Joel Grossbard, Irene Markman Geisner, Clayton Neighbors, Jason R. Kilmer, Mary E. Larimer

Objective: Studies indicate greater heavy episodic drinking and related consequences for college student-athletes compared with nonathletes. Surprisingly, little research has examined college athletesí participation in drinking games, a context associated with excessive alcohol consumption and negative alcohol-related consequences in college students. Method: We examined how drinking game participation contributes to alcohol consumption and alcohol-related consequences among college-level intramural and intercollegiate athletes compared with nonathletes in two independent samples. Study 1 consisted of 1,395 randomly selected students (61% women) at a West Coast college campus, including 335 students who reported intramural athletic participation. Study 2 consisted of 6,055 randomly selected college students (63% women) from three college campuses, including 1,439 intramural athletes and 317 intercollegiate athletes. Results: Results of Study 1 indicated that intramural athletes consumed significantly more drinks per week, had significantly higher typical and peak blood alcohol concentration levels, and reported more negative consequences than nonathletes. Drinking game participation mediated the relationship between intramural athlete status and measures of consumption and consequences. Results of Study 2, including both intramural and intercollegiate athletes, were consistent with those of Study 1, revealing drinking game participation as a mediator of the relationships between athlete status and alcohol consumption and consequences. Conclusions: Drinking games represent contexts for college athletes to engage in heavy episodic drinking, and participation in drinking games mediates the relationship between alcohol consumption and negative consequences in athletes. Interventions targeted at college athletes should consider the impact of drinking game participation. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs 68: 97-105, 2007)