For decades, parents have encouraged their children to participate in team sports. Parents believed the experience of associating with peers toward a common goal would improve communication skills and help children prepare for the real world. Additional benefits would naturally include physical conditioning, dedication toward goals and adoption of healthier behaviors.
New research calls for a “time-out” of expectations as a study finds participation in team sports is actually associated with increased fighting and drinking in men, but not in women.
The study, which was presented at the American Public Health Association’s 137th Annual Meeting & Exposition in Philadelphia, surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 13,000 high school students across the United States to examine the association between sports team participation and risky behaviors.
Of the male respondents, 60.5 percent reported participation in team sports in the past year. For these young men, sports team participation was associated with increased levels of self-reported fighting, drinking and binge drinking.
However, participation was also associated with decreased levels of depression and smoking.
Of the female high school students, 48 percent reported participation on one or more sports team in the past year. For this group, sports team participation was associated with decreased levels of fighting, depression, smoking, marijuana use and unhealthy weight loss practices.
There was no association between sports team participation and drinking for female students.
“Sports team participation appears to have both protective and risk-enhancing associations,” said Susan M. Connor, PhD, lead researcher on the study.
“These results indicate that healthy lifestyle benefits are not universal and do not apply equally across genders.”