A new study says that the higher the number of alcohol-related memory blackouts a student experiences, the greater is his/her risk of a future injury while under the influence.
Memory blackouts refer to the inability to recall events; they do not refer to loss of consciousness as a result of drinking too much.
Research indicates that alcohol alters nerve cell communication in the hippocampal region of the brain, which affects memory formation.
Researchers analysed data from almost 800 undergraduates and more than 150 postgraduate students at five universities in North America between 2004 and 2009, who were monitored for two years.
Hazardous drinking - and its consequences - "are pervasive on college campuses," the researchers found.
More than half of all the students had had one or more memory blackouts in the 12 months leading up to the start of the study; 7 percent reported six or more during this time.
Those aged between 18 and 20, "sensation seekers," and those clocking up the heaviest drinking days reported the highest number of blackouts.
The subsequent analysis showed that the overall prevalence of injury associated with alcohol was just over 25 percent, with women just as likely as men to be injured.
One to two memory blackouts increased the odds by 57 percent. With six or more memory blackouts, a student was almost three times as likely to sustain an injury
"Our results suggest that memory blackout screening at student health services could be a useful tool in college alcohol related injury prevention," conclude the authors.
The study was recently published online in Injury Prevention.