Top doctor urges ban on alcohol sponsors in sport

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The  head of AE at one of the country’s busiest hospitals has called for a ban on sports sponsorship by drinks companies.

Dr Cathal O’Donnell, chief of emergency medicine at the Mid- Western Regional Hospitals in Ennis and Limerick, said it was time that marketing which links sport to alcohol was banned, as happened with tobacco in the past.

Drink is the drug worst abused in Ireland today, he said, accounting for 80 per cent of the cases presenting at Limerick’s AE department each weekend. It was estimated medical staff there dealt with hundreds of alcohol-related cases during the peak drinking period from Friday to Sunday.

“Eighty per cent of the cases we see then involve alcohol,” said Dr O’Donnell. “We see young people who have drunk themselves unconscious, people injured in fights, and those hurt in accidents. Alcohol is the biggest drug we have, and as a nation we don’t seem to be able to take it in moderation. It far outweighs all the other drug problems we see here.”

Dr O’Donnell said it was not appropriate that alcohol should be so closely associated with sport and promoted alongside events that had a huge national following. “You have the Heineken cup in rugby and other brands sponsoring GAA, and I don’t think it sends out the right message.

“There is nothing athletic about someone drinking eight pints in the pub. We had the same thing some years ago when you had the tobacco companies sponsoring sports events, and that was stopped, and I think the same thing needs to happen with alcohol.”

The doctor said drinks companies should consider funding some of the work undertaken by medical staff coping with the fallout from alcohol abuse.

“When you think of the vast sums they spend on advertising, it would only take a fraction of that to put another ambulance on the road,” he said.

Dr O’Donnell noted he was a social drinker himself. “I am not against alcohol; I take a drink myself, but in moderation.”

Source: The Irish Times, 16/08/10
Journalist: Áine de Paor