Negative effects of alcohol on footballers

Dr Joseph Kabungo
ONE substance that is consumed by sports men and not only soccer players is alcohol.
This makes it necessary for players and sports men in general to have an understanding on the effects of alcohol on recovery.
The different effects of alcohol on a human body have always been a subject of discussion.
The many negative effects associated with alcohol deserve special attention especially among sports men.
I am aware that a lot of people will argue that they take alcohol in moderation. Taking in moderation will vary from individual to individual.
One person will consider taking six bottles of castle lager per day as moderation while another person will take ten bottles as moderation.
I must say that taking alcohol in moderation is misplaced in our set-up.
However for sports men engaged in endurance sport like football or rugby, which puts a lot of demand on the body, the issues relating to alcohol have to be given special consideration.
Most of the competitive sports are played by young energetic men and women and the question which is asked most of the time is whether alcohol consumption after training or competition is a good practice or not.
I know a lot of young people will argue that alcohol helps them relax after the intense activity associated with practice or actual competition.
Of course alcohol taken in moderation is not a bad practice but I am just trying to state that for those who cannot do without a drink, it is better to take alcohol in absolute moderation because of the many negative effects associated with it.
Alcohol being a drug has to be controlled because of the toxicity associated with excessive intake.
Like the old adage goes “too much of everything is not good at all.”
This is the reason why alcohol deserves a special place in the life of sports men. Any successful sports man takes good care of his body.
This includes appropriate training, good eating habits, good hydration and a perfect social life is key to success.
All these facets can be affected by excessive alcohol intake.
At the end of the day we observe promising and budding young talent that disappears in thin air.
The specific issue on the effects of alcohol on the recovery of the body from physical activity, alcohol consumption really plays a big role.
Any strenuous physical activity will result in loss of body fluids mainly through sweating.
The fluid loss during a single competitive football match is quite significant and this has to be replaced in order for recovery of the body to occur in good time with little stress on other body systems.
Dehydration has to be avoided at all times during and after exercise.
Alcohol consumption causes more fluid loss from the body that is already in negative balance.
Alcohol results in the suppression of the anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) secretion which is responsible for water retention.
Once the ADH is suppressed more fluid will be lost through the kidneys and this situation further depletes the body fluids and worsens the dehydration.
A dehydrated sportsman will feel tired after a night of heavy drinking.
Severe dehydration will further delay the body’s ability to recover from trauma to the muscle cells and the player become more at risk of suffering muscle injuries.
Physical activity is always linked to micro trauma to the muscles and the body has got its own mechanisms of quickly repairing these in good time. Severe dehydration that is worsened by excessive alcohol intake will certainly delay this process.
It has been observed that recovery from injury is actually delayed in sports men who take so much alcohol whilst they are in the recovery period.
Compliance to prescribed rehabilitative exercises is of importance to an injured sports man.
Problems always arise when the sports man cannot attend physiotherapy sessions because of bad drinking habits.
Many sports men will give excuses for missing appointments at hospitals because they are afraid of meeting the doctor or physiotherapist because of a hangover and other undesirable effects of alcohol.
What I am trying to discuss is not the alcohol dependency syndrome, which will be tackled at a later stage but it is the effects of what can be described as a normal excessive drinking outing.
Alcohol will result in a sports man to eat unhealthy foodstuff that are found in many drinking places.
The food, which they eat, will make them have difficulties in controlling their bodyweight.
It is not a secret how many football players have been struggling with their weight.
The simple answer is the beer they have been taking and the bad eating habits.
The increase in weight of a soccer player for instance will result in increased risk to injury, especially the ankle injuries.
The other obstacle will be reduction in speed and problems to react and challenge for aerial balls, which is easily noticed in defenders.
Alcohol disturbs the glucose metabolism in the liver.
This will result in the body running at a very low sugar level and this will ultimately affect the performance in training and competition.
Fatigue in a sports man who drinks a lot of alcohol before and after competition is easily noticed.
Fatigue is another predisposing factor to injuries, which has been documented in many writings on sports injuries.
Injuries are always frustrating to a sports man and the best thing to do is to eliminate as many of the predisposing factors including alcohol.
The effects of alcohol on the brain are obvious at many times.
In medical school we use to say that alcohol inhibits the inhibitors, which means that normal processes, which help someone behave normally, are always shut down by alcohol.
Alcohol will lead to young sports men to engage themselves in risk behaviour including unprotected sex.
Unprotected sex can lead to young men getting a sexually transmitted infection, including HIV.
I am sure a lot has been said about HIV and the prevention strategies which are there.
A good recovery programme after a football match demands that adequate fluid intake is given special consideration.
For questions and comments write to Dr Ka¬bungo Joseph
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