Can a top footballer afford to go on a binge?

Dr Ken Fox, exercise and sports science expert at Exeter University, talks to Jeremy Laurance
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"GOING on a one-night bender may have nasty short-term effects but they are unlikely to last longer than a day. The much more serious question is whether England players who risk their hard-won fitness clubbing all night are mentally prepared for the rigours of international competitive sport.

"What was Teddy Sheringham thinking of, carousing into the small hours in a Portuguese nightclub? Why would he do that, assuming the reports are accurate, a matter of days before the opening game of the World Cup when it is critical that he be at peak fitness?

"When you go on a binge you are out of control and vulnerable - you can be injured, you can walk into a wall or have an accident. Alcohol breeds violence, and for a public figure there is a risk of being assaulted, too.

"Partying, smoking and drinking may not be a problem in terms of their short-term physical effects. One night on the tiles is not going to damage the fitness level of a highly tuned athlete. The key issue is what this says about discipline and morale in the squad.

"It is the same with Paul Gascoigne. His supporters say he is not fit enough yet - but he could be in time. The question is: why is he not fit now? What does that say about his attitude?

"Alcohol causes dehydration as well as imparing mental capacity. We are all familiar with hangovers. It can take 24 hours to recover from one and if you are performing the next day that may cause serious problems. The real issue with drink is the risk of an accident that the drinker is exposed to. That is why it is a threat to performance."