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Transitions Into and Out of Intercollegiate Athletic Involvement and Risky Drinking

Jennifer M. Cadigan, Andrew K. Littlefield, Matthew P. Martens, Kenneth J. Sher

Objective: Cross-sectional data show that college athletes consume more alcohol and experience more general alcohol-related problems than those not participating in athletics. To our knowledge, the current study is the first to use a longitudinal design to examine the extent to which the course of drinking and alcohol-related problems relates to involvement in intercollegiate athletics, including transitioning into and out of athletic involvement. Method: Participants were drawn from a sample of 3,720 college students from the Intensive Multivariate Prospective Alcohol College-Transitions Study who completed a survey every semester through their fourth year. Four groups were created based on athletic involvement status at baseline (freshman year) and follow-up (senior year): nonathlete, nonathlete (no reported athletic involvement at either time point), nonathlete, athlete (nonathlete at freshman year, athlete at senior year), athlete, nonathlete (athlete at freshman year, nonathlete at senior year), and athlete, athlete (athlete at freshman year, athlete at senior year). Results: A series of repeated measures analyses were then conducted to test for developmental differences among the athlete groups involving alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems. Although findings differed as a function of alcohol outcome and comparison among various groups with differing athletic involvement, the general pattern of results showed that individuals who were more athletically involved demonstrated sharper increases in problem drinking (i.e., heavy drinking, frequency of intoxication, alcohol-related problems) during the college years. Conclusions: These findings highlight the apparent risk associated with participation in intercollegiate athletics on college drinking. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 74, 2129, 2013)