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High contact sports pose risk of drug, alcohol use in teens

Chris Seward
Flickr Creative Commons

Many parents believe participation in any competitive sport will keep their teenage child from smoking or drinking.  But according to a new  study, they may be in for a disappointment.

A University of Michigan study reports that teens who play sports like  football, wrestling, hockey or lacrosse, are more likely to drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes or marijuana than students who play tennis, run track or swim.

Philip Veliz, an assistant research professor at the University and the study's lead author, said that risky behavior around alcohol and smoking is more likely in high contact sports than non-contact sports.

"My hypothesis is that these high contact sports are cultivating a culture of risk and actually they're cultivating this idea that your body is something to be gambled with," Veliz said. "Maybe the culture that's actually being cultivated in non-contact sports is one that is kind of like viewing the body as an end in itself. It's something that's to be cultivated. It's something to be preserved."

The study also showed that teens in competitive sports were more likely to have gotten drunk between 4th and 8th grades, than teens not engaged in these sports.

Veliz said sports do more good than harm.  He hopes the study will raise awareness among coaches and school officials and encourage the inclusion of substance use evaluation in athletes' physical exams as well as making substance use counseling available to them.

Virginia Gordan,  Michigan Radio Newsroom