While it is evident that many teens will never excel in sports, participating in a group sport as a teen serves a number of positive functions. Teens who play in group sports work with other teens to achieve a common goal. They learn how to interact effectively with others, an essential part of life. They practice leadership, communication, and build self-confidence, which will help guide them to future successes. Teens who take part in group sports are far more likely to eat a healthier diet and are less likely to be overweight.
In a study published in 2015 in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, researchers from Australia investigated the longitudinal effect of sports club (group sports) participation on fitness and body fat changes during childhood and adolescence. The cohort consisted of 134 Australian males and 155 Australian females between the ages of 8 and 16 years. The data were obtained at age 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 16 years from 2005 to 2013. The goal of the study was to compare the club sports participants to the nonparticipants across time. Participants who changed their sport participation status were eliminated from the analysis. At baseline, 79 percent of the males and 65 percent of the females participated in club sports. Unfortunately, over the course of the study there was a 47 percent attrition rate for the males and a 43 percent attrition rate for the females. By the time they were 16 years old, there was an 8 percent decline in sports participation among the males and a 6 percent decline among the females. Still, sports club participants were more physically active at all age groups. Both male and female sport club participants had a high level of fitness, and the females, but not the males, had less body fat. The researchers commented that “strategies aiming to maximize the benefits associated with sport participation are required and should be adapted to the specific gender, age-group and stage of development of the group.” 1
In a study published in 2014 in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, researchers based in Portugal examined the association between a five-month football instruction and practice intervention and the psychological status and body composition of overweight boys. The cohort consisted of 12 males between the ages of 8 and 12 years; all of the boys were overweight. The males participated in a structured five-month football program that consisted of four weekly 60- to 90-minute sessions. A control group included eight boys of the equivalent age from an obesity clinic located near the school attended by the intervention children. Both groups of children participated in two school-based physical education sessions of 45 to 90 minutes per week. By the end of the intervention, much to the surprise of the researchers, there were no differences in body fat and lean body mass between the two groups. As one might assume, the researchers hypothesized that the intervention group would have less body fat and leaner body mass. However, the intervention group showed improvements in all the indicators of psychological status, such as significantly better body image and self-esteem. The researchers commented that their “results were consistent with a previous study highlighting the importance of PA [physical activity] in enhancing the psychological health of overweight and obese children.” 3
In a study published in 2014 in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers from Denmark wanted to learn more about the actual injury incidence among adolescent female soccer players. They believed that previous studies, based on reports from coaches or medical staff, had significantly underestimated the rate of injury in this population. Unlike the other studies, the researchers obtained their data from self-reports via mobile telephone text messaging. The cohort consisted of 498 females between the ages of 15 to 18 years from 32 teams. During the February to June 2012 female soccer season, the players sustained a total of 434 soccer injuries, defined as “any new onset of pain or discomfort reported by the players.” This represented an overall injury incidence of 15.3 per 1,000 hours of exposure. The incidence of severe injuries was 1.1 per 1,000 hours of exposure. The researchers noted that the incidence of soccer injuries in female players in Denmark is “very high.” Severe injuries commonly occurred to the knee, ankle, groin, and lumbar spine. Frequent players have far fewer injuries than those with low soccer participation. Infrequent soccer players “may represent a population exhibiting unsafe behavior and a possible major cost to society in terms of medical expenses.” 5
In a study published in 2014 in Journal of Athletic Training, researchers from the University of Florida, Gainesville, noted that people with symptoms of a concussion who continue to participate in sports may place their health in serious danger. Yet, it is not well known how much sports players, specifically football players, know about concussion symptoms. In recent years, legislation in Florida has attempted to address this situation through parental consent forms. Was the legislation making a difference? The researchers surveyed a total of 334 varsity football players from 11 high schools in north-central Florida. Slightly more than half of the participants reported receiving concussion instruction from their parents; 60 percent received this from a formal source. A startling 25 percent had not received any concussion education. Almost all of the participants were aware that headache, dizziness, and confusion were potential signs of a concussion. But, they were generally unaware of other signs, such as nausea, vomiting, grogginess, difficulty concentrating, and personality and/or behavior changes. Only a small proportion knew that inappropriate care after a concussion may trigger very serious medical problems, such as brain hemorrhage, coma, or death. “Even with parents or guardians signing a consent form indicating they discussed concussion awareness with their child, 46 percent of athletes suggested they had not.” The researchers commented that “action should be taken to better educate athletes and to ensure the proper recognition and management of concussions.” 7
1. Rohan M. Telford, Richard D. Telford, Thomas Cochrane et al., “The Influence of Sport Club Participation on Physical Activity, Fitness and Body Fat During Childhood and Adolescence: The LOOK Longitudinal Study,” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, published online May 14, 2015.
2. Homan Lee, Janice Causgrove Dunn, and Nicolas L. Holt, “Youth Sport Experiences of Individuals with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly 31, no. 4 (2014): 343-61.
3. A. C. Seabra, A. F. Seabra, J. Brito et al., “Effects of a Five-Month Football Program on Perceived Psychological Status and Body Composition of Overweight Boys,” Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 24, Supplement 1 (2014): 10-16.
5. Mikkel Bek, Clausen Mette Kreutzfeldt Zebis, Merete Møller et al., “High Injury Incidence in Adolescent Female Soccer,” American Journal of Sports Medicine 42, no. 10 (2014): 2487-94.
6. Abigail R. Wetton, Rebecca Radley, Angela R. Jones, and Mark S. Pearce, “What Are the Barriers Which Discourage 15-16 Year-Old Girls from Participating in Team Sports and How Can We Overcome Them?” BioMed Research International Article ID 738705 (2013): 8 pages.
7. J. Cournoyer and B. L. Tripp, “Concussion Knowledge in High School Football Players,” Journal of Athletic Training 49, no. 5 (2014): 654-58.
Bradley, John, Francis Keane, and Susan Crawford. “School Sport and Academic Achievement.” Journal of School Health 83, no. 1 (2013): 8-13.
Clausen, Mikkel Bek, Mette Kreutzfeldt Zebis, Merete Møller et al. “High Injury Incidence in Adolescent Female Soccer.” American Journal of Sports Medicine 42, no. 10 (2014): 2487-94.
Cournoyer, J., and B. L. Tripp. “Concussion Knowledge in High School Football Players.” Journal of Athletic Training 49, no. 5 (2014): 654-58.
Fuller, R. D., V. E. Percy, J. E. Bruening, and R. J. Cotrufo. “Positive Youth Development: Minority Male Participation in a Sport-Based Afterschool Program in an Urban Environment.” Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport 84, no. 4 (2013): 469-82.
Lee, Homan, Janice Causgrove Dunn, and Nicolas L. Holt. “Youth Sport Experiences of Individuals with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly 31, no. 4 (2014): 343-61.
Miller, Elizabeth, Madhumita Das, Daniel J. Tancredi et al. “Evaluation of a Gender-Based Violence Prevention Program for Student Athletes in Mumbai, India.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 29, no. 4 (2014): 758-78.
Seabra, A. C., A. F. Seabra, J. Brito et al. “Effects of a Five-Month Football Program on Perceived Psychological Status and Body Composition of Overweight Boys.” Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 24, Supplement 1 (2014): 10-16.
Telford, Rohan M., Richard D. Telford, Thomas Cochrane et al. “The Influence of Sport Club Participation on Physical Activity, Fitness and Body Fat During Childhood and Adolescence: The LOOK Longitudinal Study.” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, published online May 14, 2015.
Wetton, Abigail R., Rebecca Radley, Angela R. Jones, and Mark S. Pearce. “What Are the Barriers Which Discourage 15-16 Year-Old Girls from Participating in Team Sports and How Can We Overcome Them?” BioMed Research International Article ID 738705 (2013): 8 pages.
The Nemours Foundation. www.kidshealth.org .