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Do youth sports cause drinking and fighting?

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2628274547_b74d91a86aWe already know youth sports causes drinking and fighting in parents. But what about the kids?

If you’re male, they do, and if you’re female, not so much, according to a paper presented Nov. 9 at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting.

The paper was presented by Susan Connor, injury prevention research manager at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland.

Connor, who focused her study on teenagers, says youth sports participation — noted as 60 percent for boys and 48 percent for girls — “has obvious benefits in promoting physical activity.” Unfortunately, one of the major activities is 12-ounce curls.

For males overall and subsets of Black and White males, sports team participation was associated with increased levels of fighting, drinking, and binge drinking. For White females, sports team participation was associated with decreased levels of fighting, depression, smoking, marijuana use, and unhealthy weight loss practices. For Black females, sports team participation was only associated with increased binge drinking. Conclusions: Sports team participation appears to have both protective and risk-enhancing associations, primarily for White high schoolers. Results indicate that healthy lifestyle benefits are not universal and do not apply equally across genders or racial/ethnic groups.

So except for Elizabeth Lambert, sports appears to keep white girls’ behavior on an even plane. As for everyone else, particularly males, well, Connor’s research gives a hint as to why so many athletes show up in the police blotter.

Why is this so? Connor doesn’t say. This is merely a statistical study, with analysis based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2007 Youth Risk Behavioral Survey. (The 2009 survey is scheduled for release in summer 2010.)

However, other studies try to get at that nut. A Women’s Sports Foundation report in 2000 found that most athletes drank no more or less than nonathletes, but that “highly involved” athletes — both male and female — drank to excess. Why would that be the case? The foundation chalks it up to elite athletes’ tendency to be more risk-taking than the general population and authorities’ willingness to overlook the personal foibles of the local stars, thus providing unwitting adult encouragement of a longstanding jock drinking-and-fighting culture.

Written by rkcookjr

November 9, 2009 at 2:01 pm