Teens who play high contact sports like football, wrestling, hockey or lacrosse are more likely to drink alcohol or smoke than those teen athletes who play non contact sports. A new University of Michigan study’s findings show that participating in high contact sports was associated with substance use within the last 30 days.
The study also found that teens who play competitive, high contact sports were more likely to have an early onset of getting drunk between 4th and 8th grades when compared to teens not participating in sports.
Results showed that teens playing contact sports tended to be willing to take a gamble with their bodies, even if the gamble led to injury and permanent damage. This trait could be a reason why teens who play high contact sports are more likely to make decisions to drink or use drugs. The opposite can be said for those teens participating in non contact sports like tennis, swimming and track. Those students would be least likely to initiate drug or alcohol use because they are focused on maintaining their bodies for competition.
“Competitive sports participation can either inhibit or amplify substance use,” said Phillp Veliz, assistant research professor at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. He pointed out that it just depends on the type of sports the adolescents play.
Data from Monitoring the Future, a national survey of 8th, 10th and 12th grade students, was used by the researchers for the University of Michigan study. Students were asked questions on substance abuse, how they feel they are doing academically and whether or not they participate in sports. Their sample included more than 21,000 teens who were asked about drug and alcohol use within a 30-day window.
Veliz said that the findings cast doubt on previous perceptions that any type of participation in organized sports deters teens from risky behaviors like substance abuse.