One in 10 Sports Fans Is Legally Drunk by Game's End

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By Kelli Sutterman

NEW YORK, New York - Almost one in 10 sports fans has a blood alcohol content above the legal limit as they exit the stadium after football and baseball games, a study found.

There are 100 stadiums in the United States that schedule 5,000 games each year attended by more than 130 million fans, according to a report Wednesday in the journal Alcoholism. The New Meadowlands stadium, where the New York Giants football team plays, has a capacity of 82,500. If this study holds, about 6,600 people, or 8 percent, leave drunk after watching a game.

The research, which involved giving breath tests to 362 attendees of 13 baseball and three football games, also found that 40 percent had been drinking, according to the report. Fans younger than 35 were nine times likelier to be above the legal limit. The use of alcohol by sports spectators is understudied, the researchers said.

"Eight percent doesn't sound high, but translate into how many people are leaving the stadium drunk, and you have thousands of people," said lead author Darin Erickson, assistant professor in epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

There are more alcohol-related car crashes after sports games than before or during the same time on nongame days, a previous study by Canadian researchers found. Beside the well-known link between drunken driving and accidents, fans who are drunk are likelier to hurt themselves or others, Erickson said.

Those who attended tailgate parties had a 14 times greater risk of being inebriated than those who hadn't attended a party. Almost one in four people who tailgated reported consuming five or more drinks while tailgating, the study found.

Fans who attended night games had higher odds of having a mid-range blood alcohol content, one that wasn't above the legal limit, than those attending day games, the researchers said. Those who attended Monday night football games were more than four times as likely to have a mid-range blood alcohol content as fans going to other games, according to the study.

Erickson declined to say which stadiums were used in the sample. The research was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The legal limit for blood alcohol is .08 percent, which is 80 milligrams of alcohol per deciliter of blood, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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