Method - Permission to survey student athletes was granted from the Institutional Review Board and the athletic department at one NCAA Division 1 University. A non-random convenience sample of 230 participants was surveyed using a previously validated instrument to assess their perceptions of alcohol policies of the university, athletic department, and athletic team.
Analysis/Results - The sample consisted of both male (n=143; 62.2%) and female (n=87; 37.8%) athletes representing twelve varsity sports. Based on the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's levels of safe drinking, participants were categorized in one of three groups: abstainer (n=50), moderate drinker (n=84), and heavy drinker (n=96). Participants were asked to report their perceptions of the university, athletic department, and team alcohol policies. When asked about university policies, 32.0% of the abstainers felt the university needed greater alcohol restrictions compared to just 13.1% of moderate drinkers and 6.3% of heavy drinkers (c2=25.419; p<.001). Similarly, 34.0% of the abstainers felt the athletic department needed greater alcohol restrictions compared to 16.7% of moderate drinkers and 6.3% of heavy drinkers (c2=28.454; p<.001). When asked about alcohol policies governing the team on which they compete, 18.0% of the abstainers felt the head coach needed stricter alcohol policies compared to 13.1% of moderate drinkers and 7.3% of heavy drinkers (c2=21.453; P=.002).
Conclusions - The results of this study suggest that institutional policies do not have a major influence on college athlete alcohol use, however those athletes who do not consume alcohol would prefer stricter alcohol policies at all levels within athletics and the university. Collegiate athletic administrators and coaches should examine existing alcohol policies in an effort to improve their effectiveness on reducing alcohol consumption among athletes. Collaboration with campus health educators, especially those with experience in policy analysis and change, may strengthen this process thereby leading to a reduction of alcohol use and related problems among college athletes.
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