Between Sport Participation, Problem Alcohol Use, and Violence: A Longitudinal
Study of Young Adults in Australia.            

Scholes-Balog KE, Hemphill
SA, Kremer PJ, Toumbourou JW. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2015 March 11.
[Epub ahead of print]

Home Message: Participating in athletics isn’t a risk factor for violence
outside of competition. However, sports participants with alcohol use problems are
more likely to later be violent than those without alcohol use problems.

Does sports participation
create a violent person, or is it problematic alcohol use that fosters violence
in a community? Data suggest both may play a role separately, but little is
known about the influence each has on one another.  Therefore, the authors conducted a longitudinal survey study to investigate whether there was a relationship between sports
participation, alcohol use problems, and violence among a community of
Australian young adults. The authors also wanted to examine four major violent behaviors:
physical intimate partner violence, emotional intimate partner violence,
fighting, and assault. In 2002, the surveyors asked 3,948 students and parents
to participate in the International Youth Development Study. Ultimately 2,884 students who were 11-15 year of age and
in grades 5, 7, and 9 participated. Ten years later in 2010 2,262 participants
(1,260 females and 1,002 males, 17-24 years old) completed the first survey used
in this study. They completed the last survey in this study in 2012 when
participants were 19-26 years old. Of the
2,262 people who partook in the survey only 1,347 participants participated
in sports (60%). The survey asked about sports participation, fighting, common
risk factors (such as cigarettes, drug use, anti-social behavior), alcohol use
problems, intimate partner violence, and assault (how severe was the other
persons injury/ies).  The authors found that
overall sports participation in 2010 was not related to violent behaviors in
2012; however, sports participants who had alcohol use problems in 2010 were
more likely to fight in 2012. In contrast, this was not the case among sports
participants who did not report alcohol use problems.     

This study offers some
interesting insight into the relationship between sports participation, alcohol
use, and violence. The authors found that sports participation was not directly
related with intimate partner violence, fighting, or assault. However, sports
participants who had alcohol use problems were more likely to fight two years
later compared with those who did not have alcohol use problems. This pattern
was not found among young adults who did not participate in sports. It appears
promoting healthy living through community-based sports participation may be
unraveled by alcohol use.  The drinking
culture and social stigma of excessive alcohol consumption within community
sporting environments should be the main cause for concern.  Educational efforts may be necessary to
assist in preventing alcohol use problems and alcohol fueled violent behavior
among sport participants. The authors used a robust community-based approach among
college-aged adults, which limits its usefulness for clinicians working
directly with high school or professional sport settings. Furthermore, the
authors relied on self-reported data in which some may have incorrectly
reported being a sport participant or failed to report violent behaviors. Future
longitudinal studies may want to assess if prior participation in different levels
of sports or specific sports influence alcohol use and violence. In the
meantime, this study should remind sports medicine clinicians that we should coordinate
with the rest of the sports medicine team to address alcohol use problems among
our athletes because these problem may increase the risk of violent behaviors
as the athlete ages. We have obligations to our patients to protect their
health and wellbeing on and off the field.

for Discussion: Working in community-based sports leagues (city-leagues,
intramurals, etc) is there a problem with violence and alcohol use?  Do you see a difference in cultural views
regarding violence and alcohol in community-based sport leagues compared to a
more formal athletic environment (high school, collegiate, professional)?

Written by:  Adam Rosen and Robert Dill
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban

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Scholes-Balog, K., Hemphill, S., Kremer, P., & Toumbourou, J. (2015). Relationships Between Sport Participation, Problem Alcohol Use, and Violence: A Longitudinal Study of Young Adults in Australia Journal of Interpersonal Violence DOI: 10.1177/0886260514567962