Party On, Wayne: A Derby Player’s Relationship with Alcohol

Roller derby players enjoy spending time with each other.  And most of us enjoy a good party.  It is not uncommon for everyone at a tournament or bout to ask where the after party is.  This doesn’t mean that most derby players drink, but some do.  And since it is the start of the travel season, this might be a good time to refresh our minds about maintaining a good relationship with alcohol.177252_738509803679_328149576_o

I once played on an Ultimate Frisbee  team.  It was right smack dab in the middle of the St. Louis summer, when our games frequently got cancelled because the heat index was above 100ºF.   During one hot game, we were all chugging water on the sidelines when I noticed my teammate was downing beer.  I turned to him, aghast, and asked him why he thought that would be a good idea.  He responded by saying, “Why wouldn’t it be?  It keeps me hydrated!”

I just stared at him with a blank face and tried to explain why his reasoning was all wrong.  As I figured might happen, he got very sick to his stomach and didn’t play most of our game.  Although lots of people drink on occasion (and hopefully NEVER before or during a bout or practice), many people don’t understand the effects of alcohol on athletic performance, even when you aren’t actively drinking.


Here are some of the general short-term negative physical effects alcohol has on athletic performance:

1. Decreased muscle recovery and growth (especially if you drink right after working out/playing a bout)

2. Dehydration

3. Loss of sleep

4. Weight gain

5. Increased injury recovery time

6. Decreased reaction time (even up to 2 days after drinking!)

But despite these effects, having a bit of booze on occasion is not going to majorly hinder your athletic performance.  However, if you are approaching a serious bout or tournament weekend, you should follow these rules:

-Avoid drinking 48 hours before competition.  That means don’t drink DURING a tournament at all, until you are done with your last bout.

-Drink lots of water and refuel before downing those post-bout beers.   Give your body time to recover before you throw a bunch of alcohol into the equation.

There is also research that suggests not working out when hungover, because it further dehydrates you and increases your chances of injury.  So it’s better not to “work off that hangover” at practice – you don’t want to damage your body any more than you already have.  If if you have an important practice you need to get to on Sunday, lay off the booze a bit on Saturday night.

You might be telling yourself, “Eh, I don’t need to worry about this.  Alcohol doesn’t have any negative effects on my physical/mental performance.”  But have you ever gone an extended period of time (say, 1-2 months) without any alcohol?  During that time, did you notice any differences in your endurance, wakefulness, or overall well-being?  If not, then you are probably drinking responsibly and don’t need to change your habits.  However, if you haven’t done this, it might be fun to challenge yourself to try it out and see how it affects your athleticism.

So what are the current guidelines for alcohol consumption?

In the UK:


No more than 14 units a week (I like this because it is the same for guys and girls)

In the US:


No more than 7 (girls) or 14 (guys) drinks a week

So although we shouldn’t be scared to get that fruity cocktail and dance our hearts out at the after party, we should all be knowledgeable about how alcohol might affect athletic performance throughout the season.  If you want to stay strong, healthy, and injury-free, it might be good to cut back a bit (at least until after November).

There are also major long-term effects of alcohol on physical performance.  If you feel like you might have any sort of alcohol dependence, there are people out there that can help!

Blog References:
Kozir, LP. Alcohol and Athletic Performance. American College of Sports Medicine. Retrieved from:
Vella LD, Cameron-Smith D. Alcohol, Athletic Performance and Recovery. Nutrients, 2010. 2(8): 781-789. doi: 10.3390/nu2080781
Drinkaware. Can Alcohol Affect Sports Performance? 2015. Retrieved from
Boston University. Alcohol and Athletic Performance. 2011. Retrieved from
O’Brien CP. Alcohol and Sport. Sports Medicine, 1993. 15(2): 71-77. PMID: 8446825

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One Response to Party On, Wayne: A Derby Player’s Relationship with Alcohol

  1. One thing I’ve learned (from studies) is that over time, men have started to drink less and women have started to drink more. I think more than ever before both men and women are drinking similar amounts. BUT, women and men respond to alcohol very differently. So it is a situation where there are unfortunate differences, despite cultural norms. A very interesting topic.


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