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A night’s supply of beer, a triangle formation of red plastic cups, and a ping-pong ball equals a fun evening for college students. Replace the beer with root beer and you have a “watered-down” version of the game for middle-school and high school kids. It is "Beer Pong", the drinking game in which players throw a ping pong ball, across a table. trying to land the ball in a cup of beer at the opposite end. If a player successfully makes a shot in his/her challenger’s cup, the challenger is required to drink the beer. In fact, many college students consider it a “rite of passage.”

Do you know all the risks of this game? One risk is obvious – consuming too much alcohol, but have you considered the risk of communicable diseases? OK, OK, I know…I am a prude; I don’t remember my youth; (actually, I remember it well; I grew up in the 60’s; we were famous for taking outrageous risks) my children are grown. I’m working on my second grandchild. But do these school-aged kids even think about disease as they all share the same cups? What about beer tainted with dust, debris and bacteria found under the refrigerator or bathroom floor that the ping pong ball rolled under or across? Because that same ball is picked up and thrown into a cup of beer which is then drunk, even if it is first dropped in a cup of water to be “rinsed off” (a game rule). Research has shown that a myriad of bacteria is swimming in those cups. Is there a clear understanding what these players are actually ingesting? If they clearly understood, would they take additional precautions? Does beer taste better when laced with bacteria?

A couple of years ago, two biology students at George Washington University decided to conduct an experiment to determine how unsanitary the game of beer pong could potentially be. They started with brand new balls to avoid errors in their findings. After they played a 3-hour game, they took bacteria samples. They found bacteria from the bacteria from the E-coli, pneumonia, and salmonella families in every test tube. And these were the results even when participants changed the water, frequently, throughout the night. Of course, not everyone or anyone will get sick, but is a game of beer pong worth the risk of flu, mononucleosis, E-coli, salmonella poisoning, even herpes? Last year the swine flu hit colleges hard across the country. Many believe the virus may have spread as a result of the drinking game. Alcohol does not kill the virus or prevent it from spreading.

It is easy to get caught up in a fun night of beer pong. Most students will play despite the potential health ramifications. If you decide to take the risk, be prepared for the consequences. To lessen or avoid some of the risk, why not fill the “game” cups with water, instead of beer; give each player his/her “own” cup to drink from. When a player or team loses, fill each loser’s respective cup with beer. Have them drink from their own cups; no one shares a cup; no one drinks from the game cup? Make sense? Yeah, yeah, I am a prude…And a parent…and a grandparent. and drink it. No one ever drinks the water or uses the cup that is part of the game.

Oh, by the way, while I am being a prude, allow me to remind players to avoid the biggest danger of all, when the game is over or when you decide to leave: Please…don’t drink and drive!

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed while a personal injury case is pending. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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