Effects of heavy episodic drinking on physical performance in club level rugby union players

J Sci Med Sport. 2015 May;18(3):268-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2014.04.009. Epub 2014 Apr 26.


Objectives: This study investigated the effects of acute alcohol consumption, in a natural setting, on exercise performance in the 2 days after the drinking episode. Additionally, alcohol related behaviours of this group of rugby players were identified.

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Methods: Nineteen male club rugby players volunteered for this study. Measures of counter movement jump, maximal lower body strength, repeated sprint ability and hydration were made 2 days before and in the 2 days following heavy episodic alcohol consumption. Participants completed a questionnaire at each time point so that alcohol consumption and sleep hours from the previous 24 h period could be quantified. Additionally, participants completed the Alcohol Use Disorders Test (AUDIT) prior to completing baseline measures of performance.

Results: Reported alcohol consumption ranged from 6 to >20 standard drinks (mean category scale score=11-19 standard drinks). A significant decrease in sleep hours (p=0.01) was reported after the drinking episode with participants reporting 1-3 h for the night. A significant reduction (-1.8±1.5 cm) in counter movement jump (p<0.01) the morning after the drinking episode was observed; no other measures were altered at any time point compared to baseline (p>0.05). AUDIT scores for this group (18.2±4.3) indicate regular alcohol consumption at a hazardous level.

Conclusions: Heavy episodic alcohol use, and associated reduced sleep hours, results in a reduction in lower body power output but not other measures of anaerobic performance the morning after a drinking session. Full recovery from this behaviour is achieved by 2 days post drinking episode.

Keywords: Alcohol abuse; Anaerobic performance; Hydration; Rugby; Sleep; Team sport.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Binge Drinking / physiopathology*
  • Football / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Running / physiology
  • Sleep*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult