Participating in organized athletics has become such a widespread practice among students in the U.S. that the high school experience for many goes hand in hand and even revolves around their participation in sports. Unfortunately, the physical stress placed on students, as well as potential mental harm, should make us reconsider the rigors that student athletes are put through while their bodies are still developing.
One of the sports most notorious for its danger to the adolescent body is football, evidenced by the alarming number of players who receive concussions, as well as the constantly lingering possibility of a broken bone.
While football may be the most dangerous, every sport yields the potential to inflict a broken bone, torn ligament, or other severe injuries that can be devastating to a growing adolescent. A 2003 study by Medline stated that out of the roughly 30 million high school sports participants across the U.S., an estimated 1/3 had sustained a severe injury, costing about 1.8 billion dollars in hospital expenses yearly.
Due to the high participation in high school sports, both tryouts and the desire to stand out among so many peers creates a highly competitive nature has come about that extracts another high physical toll on students. Preparing for tryouts to get a spot on the team can be rigorous, and once on the team, practice and performance become more intense.
Practices for high school sports are frequent, long in duration, and both physically and mentally demanding. In 7th grade I remember beading in sweat, lined up next 40 other football players in full pads, panting through ten 100-yard sprints. It only gets worse as age and skill level progresses.
All of this, of course, is on top of the fact that Wellesley has one of the top schooling systems in the state. The combination of sports, school, and sometimes even a job or other extracurricular obligations can be extremely stressful for a student.
Aside from the pressure on students in academically prestigious schools resulting from participating in sports, having a large and well-equipped athletic department can be expensive for less well-funded funded schools. This money could be better spent on academic supplies, teacher’s salaries, or any of the seemingly endless expenses associated with running a school.
There is an argument that having a student stay committed to a variety of extracurricular activities, specifically sports, can prevent them from engaging in harmful behaviors. In contrast to this popular belief, A 2007 Youth Risk Behavioral Survey that interviewed more than 13,000 US high school students showed that while participation in high school athletics led to a decrease in depression and smoking, it showed an increase in fighting, drinking and binge drinking.
Not only is student’s behavior affected, but also that of the parents of student athletes. Parents have the tendency to push their children a little too far when it comes to sports, and this can be especially detrimental to the student if he or she doesn’t enjoy the sport in the first place.
The stigma around high school sports can sometimes draw students into participating, and has caused widespread harm to the adolescents in the U.S. It may be time to take another look at the emphasis we place on high school sports as Americans.
(Vince Caruso ’16, Opinions Editor)