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Breath Tests Show Many Fans Exit Stadium Drunk

Upwards of 40% of people who attend professional baseball or football games leave the stadium with a positive blood alcohol level and 8% leave legally drunk, a new study suggests.

Jan. 21, 2011 -- Upwards of 40% of people who attend professional baseball or football games leave the stadium with a positive blood alcohol level and 8% leave legally drunk, a new study suggests.

Researchers who gave breath tests to 362 attendees of 13 pro baseball and three football games say 60% had zero blood alcohol content upon leaving. Of the 40% who had positive blood alcohol content, 8% had blood alcohol content levels at or above the 0.08 limit for a classification of intoxicated.

The findings are most likely considerably conservative, according to the researchers, because many people leaving the games had no desire to take part in a breathalyzer test to determine if they had been drinking or to answer questions about the amount of alcohol they drank.

“Our sample size was small, partly because of the difficulty of getting fans to submit to a [blood alcohol content] test after a game,” Erickson says in a news release. “But if we assume that it represents individuals attending professional events, it means that on average about 5,000 attendees leaving one National Football League event would be above the legal [intoxication] limit for driving. That’s a lot of drunken individuals who could be involved in traffic crashes, assaults, vandalism, crime and other injuries.”

Tailgaters at Risk

Among the key findings of the study:

  • Nearly one in four people who said they had tailgated reporting drinking five or more alcoholic beverages before games started.
  • People who had tailgated before games were 14 times more likely to leave the games legally drunk than fans who had not.
  • Those under 35 had nine times greater odds of having blood alcohol content levels above the legal limit as they exited.
  • People who attend night games had higher odds of having a mid-range blood alcohol content than those who went to daytime games. Night game attendees were not significantly more likely to have a blood alcohol content above the legal limit, however, compared to those at day games.

The findings, Erickson says, raise serious concerns and suggest the need for better training for those who sell alcohol at games and for stepped-up police patrols around stadiums after games.

Monday Night vs. Sunday Afternoon

Erickson and his colleagues write in the study that 58% of participants were men. He says 55% were between 21 and 35, and 14% were 51 or older.

The strongest predictor of drunk fans when exiting the game was whether that person had tailgated, Erickson says. The study also found that fans exiting Monday night football games compared to Sunday games had six times the odds of having a mid-range blood alcohol content than a zero blood alcohol content.

The study is published online and will appear in the April print edition of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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