Beer Pong: A Threat to Your Health?

A Glimpse into the Possible Health Risks of This Popular Drinking Game

Beer pong is undoubtedly the one game that remains the highlight of any party, for people of all ages.

The original creators of beer pong remain unknown. However, it’s clear that this game has come a long way, from the marketing and selling of tables used strictly for beer pong, (as found on,) to the high-stakes competition among frat brothers and sorority girls to win the “sport.”

For those living under a rock, beer pong is a game that consists of two teams who try and shoot a ping pong ball into their opponent’s cups from across a table. Red cups have become the standard model used for drinking the beer out of, and they’re usually placed in triangle formation. If you make all of your opponent’s cups, your team wins.

Although beer pong rules usually vary by region, it is essentially a fun, non-expensive party game that breaks the ice and allows people to engage in a good time.

However, new research shows that beer pong participants may want to think twice before chugging that amber goodness.

Students Aaron Heffner and Ben Morrissey of George Washington University in Washington D.C. conducted an experiment in microbiology to determine how unsanitary a game of beer pong could potentially be, according to

Of course the students initially took into account the varying degrees of filth that a ball may encounter. For example, the ball could roll under a dusty couch, into grass and dirt, or into a basement corner filled with cat hair and sawdust.

As non-enticing as this sounds already, samples taken by the students from beer cups used in a game of beer pong the night before indeed showed evidence of bacteria from classes like E. coli, salmonella and pneumonia.

Heffner and Morrissey also saw that germs were contracted through saliva left on cups from the previous players, while bacteria that were found in the experimental test tubes are known to cause symptoms of fever, diarrhea and nausea.

The water cup by far had the most bacteria growth, suggesting that a few dunks of a dirty ping pong ball into a cup of water is perhaps worse than picking it off the floor and throwing it without prior cleaning.

Clinical Assistant Professor Jan Hudzicki of Kansas University Medical Center also conducted studies that reflected similar findings of bacteria and fungus existing on a typical floor surface.

According to, Hudzicki found that “the three biggest infection risks from beer pong are strep throat, pneumonia and meningitis, which are potentially fatal and can be contracted by sharing beer cups.”

So unless you are a bonafide beer pong champion who doesn’t plan on leaving the table, or have a monstrously good immune system, it is recommended you take some small actions in order to prevent yourself from getting sicker than needed.

First, it is recommended to pour the beer you plan on drinking into separate cups, apart from the triangle formation.

Players could either pour the beer that’s in the cup they need to drink into a separate cup that only he or she uses for the remainder of the night, or change the cups being used every time a new team joins the game. Players could also save cups and confusion by filling up the cups on the table with water and simply drinking from a can or bottle.

Another tip is to change the water cup more frequently throughout the night. If playing in a kitchen, have someone wash the balls off in the sink every so often, or put trash bags on whatever surface you’re playing on to minimize dirt from sticking and to keep beer off the floor. Drinkers could also use disinfecting wipes.

Of course, even if all of these measures were taken, there’s no valid way to completely eliminate germs from a game. However, by taking the time to incorporate these alternate methods into one’s normal beer pong routine, one could greatly reduce their chance of infection.

Hopefully this will help destroy any former beer pong myths, such as that the alcohol in beer kills off germs or that the infamous water cup works immaculate miracles.

This information should not discourage you from playing the game or having fun, but instead remind you that there are ways to help yourself feel better the morning after and the days to come, even if a hangover is still present.