Consuming alcohol after a sport related competition or event is the cultural norm in Australia. However, this social norm can significantly impact on the recovery of a range of injuries.
- Soft tissue injuries – It has been shown that alcohol can significantly increase recovery time of injury as instead of constricting blood flow (the reason for the standard ice and elevation treatment), alcohol dilates the blood vessels which increases the bleeding and swelling around soft tissue injuries.
- Surgeries – High alcohol consumption may also increase the endocrine stress response to surgery which can worsen existing conditions and increase the risk of bleeding and recovery time.
- Tendon injuries – alcohol ingestion has been shown to result in delayed and abnormal tendon healing even three weeks after the injury occurred.
- Concussions – There is no recommended safe amount of alcohol after a brain injury – especially early in recovery when the brain is healing. Even moderate amounts of alcohol for people with a concussion has been linked to poor outcomes on memory, attention, balance, and behaviour. Just a little alcohol after a concussion can also impair judgment and increase the risk of a fall and subsequent head injury.
- Fractures – Alcohol intake slows the rate of bone formation and also causes the bone that does form to be less strong which increases the risk of re-fracturing the same site.
Other ways that alcohol can impact recovery of injury include;
- Alcohol’s effect on sleep can reduce the amount of human growth hormone (HGH) in your body. HGH is part of normal muscle building and repair processes.
- Alcohol can also reduce testosterone, which is needed for muscle development and recovery.
- Alcohol masks pain, if you can’t feel the pain of a muscle injury you are less likely to take care of it. This will slow your recovery time or even cause further damage.
So if you’re injured instead of reaching for a cold beer instead reach for a non-alcoholic alternative to ensure that you’re back out on the field in no time.