C H I C A G O, Sept. 14 -- There may be something to the stereotype of theclean-cut high school jock.
A survey of more than 14,000 teen-agers found that those whoparticipated in team sports were less likely to use drugs, smoke,have sex, carry weapons or have unhealthy eating habits.
“The generally positive relationships between sportsparticipation and health behaviors suggest that physicians shouldactively encourage young people to take advantage of theopportunity to join sports teams,” the South Carolina researcherswrote in the September issue of the Archives of Pediatrics &Adolescent Medicine, published by the American Medical Association.
While other studies have had similar findings, some have linkedspecific sports with unhealthy behavior, such as drinking. Athletesin the current study were just as likely to use alcohol asnonparticipants.
The researchers attributed their findings in part to team rulesthat frown on unhealthy behavior such as smoking.
The authors, led by Russell R. Pate, a professor of exercisescience at the University of South Carolina School of Public Healthin Columbia, analyzed results from a 1997 survey of high schoolboys and girls by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The CDC funded the study.
Robert DuRant, vice chairman of pediatrics at Wake ForestUniversity School of Medicine, said the findings do not showwhether participation in sports “causes one to engage in morehealthy behaviors.”
Teens who participate in sports have less free time and probablyhave parents who promote healthy behavior, said DuRant, who was notinvolved in the research.