Teens who play contact sports more likely to use drugs
According to a new University of Michigan study, teens who play high-contact sports — such as football, wrestling, hockey or lacrosse — are more likely to drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes or marijuana than student athletes who play non-contact sports, like swimming or track.
Phillip Veliz, assistant research professor at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, collaborated with Carol Boyd, the Deborah J. Oakley Collegiate Professor of Nursing and a professor of women’s studies and Sean McCabe, research professor at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. They used data from Monitoring the Future, which surveys 8th, 10th and 12th grade students. The national sample included more than 21,000 teens who were asked about substance and illicit drug use during a 30-day period.
The questions were grouped into three categories: those who participated in high-contact sports, semi-contact sports (like baseball, basketball, field hockey and soccer) and non-contact sports. The study also indicated that those who play competitive sports had higher odds of indicating early onset of getting drunk between 4th and 8th graders when compared to their classmates who don’t play sports.
“Competitive sports participation can either inhibit or amplify substance use. It just depends upon which type of sport adolescents are involved with,” said Veliz, adding that those who play contact sports see their body as an instrument that can be easily gambled with, even if it means permanent damage. On the flip side, minimal contact sports are glorified for their sustainability to participate in throughout life.
“It is also assumed that youth who are involved with noncontact sports will be the least likely to engage in substance use due to the emphasis placed on fostering a strategic orientation to maintain a level of fitness for both competition and future longevity,” Veliz said.
Unfortunately, the belief that those who participate in any type of competitive sport are less likely to engage in risky behavior such as substance abuse, may not be true, according to this finding, added Veliz.