(MINNEAPOLIS) -- Many fans lucky enough to have tickets to one of the NFL conference championship games this weekend will cheer for their team with a beer in hand, and about one in 12 will leave the stadium legally drunk, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota say people under the age of 35 were eight times more likely to be legally drunk than other attendees, and fans who tailgate in the parking lot before the game were the worst offenders -- they were 14 times more likely to leave a game intoxicated.
In an anonymous survey given by the researchers after administering a breathalyzer test, one in four tailgaters owned up to downing at least five alcoholic beverages, with those in the highest BAC range knocking back an average of 6.6 drinks.
Doug Shavel, who has tailgated at New York Jets home games in Giants Stadium for more than 10 years, agreed that tailgating and drinking seem to go hand in hand.
"Everywhere you look voluminous quantities of alcohol are being consumed," he said. "People arrive by 9 a.m. for a [1 p.m.] kickoff and they're drinking the entire time. Some continue drinking postgame while they wait for the parking lot to clear out."
Shavel has seen a lot of bad behavior in his time that can be attributed to drinking. Once a drunken fan vomited on the person sitting next to him, then later he saw someone puking in the aisles. At another event, Shavel said he saw a man who was so inebriated he had to be carried out on a stretcher with an IV attached to his arm.
In his own tailgating circle, a friend once drank until he was so drunk he fell over into a pit of hot charcoal. "That's the exception, not the rule," Shavel insisted.
In fact, the percentage of drinkers discovered by the study may seem surprising low to anyone who has ever attended a sporting event and witnessed an alcohol-fueled fist fight or someone staggering through the stands.
But lead investigator Darin Erickson, an assistant professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota's School of Public Health said the numbers match up with findings from a previous study.
"People's perception of how many people get drunk at games may be somewhat distorted. Their estimates are likely greater than the actual numbers," he said.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio