Growing Awareness of Concussions in Youth Sports

An article in today’s Washington Post highlights the growing awareness of concussions in youth sports. The rapidity of this change still amazes me. It was not that many years ago that I hosted an event on concussions for Burke Athletic Club. Several parents contacted me saying that they were surprised that I would host such an event and invite soccer parents since concussions were not a problem in soccer.

They were wrong. Concussions were and are a problem in soccer and in many other youth sports. And the impact of that is seen in this article with the perception that youth football – especially tackle football – is too dangerous.

According to the Post:

Opposition to playing football before the age of 14 is strongest among women, with 84 percent opposed and 94 percent opposed to kids playing tackle football before they are 10. Eighty-eight percent of men oppose the idea of kids playing tackle football before they turn 10.

We have a lot to do to regain their trust and to make youth sports as safe as we can make it.

Adults Stealing from Children

It always upsets me when I see adults stealing from children’s groups. Whether taking cash from a concession stand or stealing it directly from a youth group’s bank account, it happens far too often. This New York Times story explores the dangers and reminds me yet again, that audits are so important.

From the New York Times:

The youth sports boom in the United States, fortified by at least 30 million participants, has turned what were once homespun local leagues into quasi-professional enterprises with annual budgets that experts who track nonprofits say regularly reach $250,000 — if not twice that.

Yet with the growth and development has come a long list of embezzlement and other corruption cases unfolding in a void of oversight and regulation and capitalizing on community trust. 

Across the country, people who volunteered as treasurers and other officers for Little Leagues and sports clubs have been prosecuted for pilfering gobs of money from the coffers: $220,000 in Washington, $431,000 in Minnesota, $560,000 in New Jersey, and so on, according to law enforcement authorities, league officials, experts on nonprofit organizations and news reports.

While I do not believe this requires national oversight or some new federal agency, it does remind everyone involved in youth sports that audits are critical. They can be hard to do and, especially the first time, can require changes to process and procedure. While it takes more time and requires more effort, it is worth it.

Five Myths About Women’s Sports

The Washinton Post’s Liz Clark wrote a piece last year entitled Five Myths About Women’s Sports. All of it is worth reading. But the fourth myth, Title IX is hurting men’s sports is particularly interesting since there is a particular minority who try to blame Title IX for the problems that some of the Division I men’s programs have hade.

From the piece in the Washington Post (emphasis mine):

Men’s college sports that don’t generate a profit — wrestling, tennis, gymnastics — are endangered species. To close multimillion-dollar budget shortfalls, athletic directors increasingly are dropping men’s sports teams and the scholarships and educational opportunities they represent. In response, the American Sports Council (formerly the College Sports Council) was created to rally support and spread the word that a wrongheaded application of Title IX, the U.S. law that guarantees equal opportunity for men and women at schools receiving federal funds, is the culprit.

“The long-term impact,” Eric Pearson, the organization’s chairman, wrote in the National Review, “. . . is that colleges will continue to eliminate men’s teams in order to comply with Title IX’s gender quota.”

It’s a fallacy. The real battle lines are between college sports’ “haves” ( football and men’s basketball) and its “have-nots” (men’s Olympic sports and women’s sports), as three-time Olympic gold medalist and law professor Nancy Hogshead-Makar explains in her book “Equal Play: Title IX and Social Change.”

The richest athletic departments compete in the NCAA’s Division I. And the richest among them — the roughly 65 that play big-time football, many with annual budgets of more than $100 million — generate and spend the lion’s share of their men’s budgets (78 percent) on two sports, football and basketball. The other men’s teams divvy up what’s left.

If their departments run deficits, Division I athletic directors can either rein in spending or eliminate a sport. Many, the University of Maryland included,have done both. In the past decade, Division I schools have cut 121 men’s non-revenue sports programs. But in Divisions II and III, which don’t compete in big-time football, men’s non-revenue sports are thriving, with more than 400 teams added in the past decade. If wrestling vanishes, blame football, not Title IX.

Purdue University Study Finds Benefits for Parents of Youth Athletes

While I have personally lived this, I had never really thought about this, but it makes sense: kids being active in youth sports has an impact on parents.

This Purdue study found a positive impact for parents of youth athletes. Some benefits include social friendships, improved spousal communication, and more. This links to the press release from Purdue as I have not found the full article yet.

Her Life Depends On It

Women’s Sports Foundation did an initial report about the impact of sports in 2004. They updated it with a 142 page report, Her Life Depends on It II,  in December 2009. This reports is a review of existing research on the links between sports and physical activity and the health and well-being of American girls and women.

There is a TON of material in this report. In addition to outlining the general conclusions here, I will also look at the source data as much as possible and post it as well.

General conclusions:

  • Research affirms, even more definitively than five years ago, that engagement in moderate and consistent levels of physical activity and sport for girls and women is essential to good health and well-being.
  • Although more research needs to be done, early studies examining the connections between physical activity and academic achievement show there is a positive relationship between the two in girls and women.
  • Females from lower economic backgrounds and females of color engage less in physical activity, have less access to sport and physical fitness programs, and suffer negative health consequences as a result.
  • Emerging research in prevention and training practices show that gender-conscious approaches to physical training and conditioning for female athletes help to reduce the likelihood of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries and concussions.

Student Athletes Academically Outperform Non Athletes by Wide Margins

A “massive” statewide study done in North Carolina in 2001 revealed “significant differences” in the academic performance of athletes and non athletes. The study looked at 125,000 high school students at 131 schools. The seven criteria looked at included: GPA, attendance rate, two different end-of-course testing components, discipline referrals, dropout rates and graduation rates. Athletes did better in every aspect.

  • GPA: The mean for athletes was 2.98. For non athletes is was 2.17.
  • Algebra End of Course Testing: The mean for athletes was 66.1 v. non athletes at 57.9.
  • English End of Course Testing: The mean for athletes was 61.4 v. non athletes at 50.8.
  • Attendance: Athletes missed and average of 6.3 days in a 180 day school year v. 11.9 for non athletes.
  • Discipline Referrals: Of discipline referrals made by the schools, 33.3% were athletes v. 41.8% that were non athletes.
  • Dropout Rate: The mean dropout percentage for athletes was 0.6% v. 10.32% for non athletes.
  • Graduation Rate: The mean graduation rate for athletes was 99.4% v. non athletes at 93.51%

Here’s an article about the study.

The Case for High School Activities

The National Federation of State High School Associations put out a short eight page publication, The Case for High School Activities, on the overall benefits of high school activities. This is not limited to sports. This short document pulls research from a variety of places and highlights some key findings.

  • participation in extracurricular activities in high school appears to be one of the few interventions that benefit low-status, disadvantaged students – those less well served by traditional educational programs – as much or more than their more advantaged peers.
  • students who took part in more vigorous sports like soccer or football or skateboarding, did approximately 10 percent better in math, science, English and social studies classes.
  • 18 to 25 year-olds who participate in sports activities while in high school were more likely than nonparticipants to be engaged in volunteering, voting, feeling comfortable speaking in public settings, and watching news (especially sport news).
  • an average of 78.3 percent of Alberta’s top corporate CEOs and members of the Legislative Assembly had participated in interschool sports. Nearly 80 percent indicated that being involved in school sports significantly, extensively or moderately complemented their career development and/or academic pursuits. This same study pointed out that a normal participation rate for students in high school sports is around 30 to 35 percent.

Study on Sports and Teen Pregnancy

In yet another example of why we can not look at things in a vacuum, this study on Sports and Teen Pregnancy Study from The Women’s Sports Foundation looks at the impact of sports on teen pregnancy.

Here are their major conclusions:

  1. Female athletes are less likely to get pregnant. Nationwide, female athletes are less than half as likely to get pregnant as female non-athletes.
  2. Female athletes are more likely to be virgins.
  3. Female athletes have their first intercourse later in adolescence.
  4. Female athletes have sex less often.
  5. Female athletes have fewer sex partners.
  6. Mixed results for male athletes. One study shows male athletes becoming sexually active earlier than male non-athletes. A national study found similar results for African-American male athletes v. non athletes.
  7. Both male and female athletes are more likely to use contraceptives.

From the report: “Our results strongly suggest that, for girls, sports may be used as a developmental strategy in programs intended to reduce teen pregnancy.”

“We contend that sports are a cultural resource that builds girls’ confidence, sense of physical empowerment, and social recognition within the school and community. Girls may be using the self-reliance and social status gained through athletic participation to resist social pressures to exchange sex for approval or popularity.”