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Sport Science

By Cathy Arnot USOC Physiotherapist

Alcohol Consumption: Implications for Shooting Performance

The purpose of this ar-

ticle is not to preach about the evils of drinking alcohol- ic beverages. The purpose is to help you, the shooting athlete, make an informed decision regarding whether or not to consume alcohol prior to the end of your com- petition. Most athletes that I have talked to believe that alcohol has a negative im- pact on their performance and abstain completely un- til after their Finals. Others say that a glass of wine at dinner or before going to bed helps them to relax and sleep more soundly. Still oth- ers say that alcohol does not impact their shooting perfor- mance at all. Since there is no athlete consensus, let’s review the effects of alcohol on your body systems and the recommendations of the NCAA , the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and USA Shooting’s team policy. It is estimated that 30% of Americans do not drink alcohol, 30% consume less than one alcoholic bever- age a week, 30% consume 2-15 drinks a week, while 10% of Americans - an esti- mated 24 million - consume 74 alcoholic beverages a week or approximately 10 per day.3 There is no reason to think that athletes would differ much from the gen- eral population. Alcohol has been identifi ed as the most abused substance in colle-

giate sport by the NCAA and in professional and Olympic sports by the NFL, NBA, and USOC.2 Alcohol has many negative short and long term effects that specifi cally im- pact athletic performance. The effects of alcohol on

athletic performance are de- pendent upon a number of variables. These variables include but are not limited to:

• Gender: Women are affected more than men

• Body weight: Lighter individuals are af- fected more than heavier individuals

• Ethnicity: Asians are more affected than Caucasians

• Migraine: Those who suffer from migraines tend to be affected more than non-migraine sufferers

• Drinking regularity: Those who seldom drink are more af- fected than those who drink regularly

• Hydration: Dehydra- tion increases the effect of alcohol

• Type of alcohol consumed: Red wine and darker liquors tend to result in worse hangovers than white wine and lighter liquors

• Amount and rate consumed: A large

52 USA Shooting News | May 2015

amount of alcohol consumed over a short period of time has the most pro- nounced effects on level of intoxication, duration of hangover and sleep interrup- tion.

Short Term Eff ects: In- toxication and Hangover Intoxication: There is a wide but predictable con- tinuum of effects from al- cohol consumption. Initially a person becomes tranquil and happy. As consumption increases, a person may exhibit vivacious behavior, have blurred vision, slowed reaction time, become unco- ordinated, lose their inhibi- tions, exhibit poor judgment, slurred speech, progress- ing to the inability to think clearly, feelings of vertigo, lethargy and possibly “black outs.”1

Hangover: The formal

name for hangover is veisal- gia. Veisalgia is derived from the Norwegian word kveis that means “uneasiness following debauchery” and the Greek word “algia” for pain.4 The term “hangover” refers to a collection of signs and symptoms that occur as a result of heavy drink- ing. Hangovers can last up to 72 hours after drinking, but most are shorter in dura- tion. Hangovers begin when blood alcohol concentration starts to drop and peaks

when blood alcohol con- centration hits zero. Typical symptoms include: • Headache • Memory lapses • Fatigue • Loss of appetite • Nausea • Sensitivity to light, sound and motion

• Reduced manual dexterity and trem- ors

• Decreased reaction time

• Decreased visual- spatial skills

• Decreased ability to concentrate

• Shorter attention span

While the fi rst fi ve symp- toms are unpleasant,


last six symptoms would directly infl uence shooting performance. A shotgun ath- lete cannot afford to have sensitivity to light, sound or motion or decreased reac- tion time just as rifl e and pistol athletes cannot afford to have tremors. No shoot- ing athlete wants to have im- paired visual-spatial skills or the inability to concentrate when aiming for a target.

How Alcoholic Beverages Aff ect Body Systems Intoxication: Ethanol, or

ethyl alcohol, is the type of alcohol found in most al- coholic beverages. Ethanol is absorbed by the stom- ach and directly enters the bloodstream. Ethanol can

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