American Public Health Association
800 I Street, NW • Washington, DC 20001-3710
(202) 777-APHA • Fax: (202) 777-2534 •

For Immediate Release
Contact: Media Relations, (202) 777-2509

Team Sports Participation Increases Some Unhealthy Behaviors in Male Teens; Positive Associations Seen for Females

Philadelphia, Pa. — Contradicting what most parents might think, participation in team sports doesn’t necessarily result in teenage boys adopting healthier behaviors. Instead, new research finds that it is actually associated with increased fighting and drinking.


The study, which was presented at the American Public Health Association’s 137th Annual Meeting & Exposition in Philadelphia, surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 13,000 high school students across the United States to examine the association between sports team participation and risky behaviors.


Of the male respondents, 60.5 percent reported participation in team sports in the past year. For these young men, sports team participation was associated with increased levels of self-reported fighting (OR 1.3), drinking (OR 1.4) and binge drinking (OR 1.4). However, participation was also associated with decreased levels of depression (OR 0.7) and smoking (OR 0.8).


Of the female high school students, 48 percent reported participation on one or more sports team in the past year. For this group, sports team participation was associated with decreased levels of fighting (OR 0.9), depression (OR 0.7), smoking (OR 0.5), marijuana use (OR 0.7) and unhealthy weight loss practices (OR 0.9). There was no association between sports team participation and drinking for female students.


“Sports team participation appears to have both protective and risk-enhancing associations,” said Susan M. Connor, PhD, lead researcher on the study. “These results indicate that healthy lifestyle benefits are not universal and do not apply equally across genders.”


Session 3045.0 - Association between teens' sports participation and likelihood of engaging in dangerous or unhealthy behaviors


Date: Monday, November 9, 2009 – 9:05 AM


Researcher: Susan M. Connor, PhD


Information for media:

The APHA Annual Meeting Press Office will be located in Room 302 of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The full Annual Meeting program and abstracts are available online at Final programs with session locations, along with daily highlights and other press materials, will be available on site at the APHA Press Office. Please visit our Web site for additional Annual Meeting press information.

# # #
Founded in 1872, the APHA is the oldest, largest and most diverse organization of public health professionals in the world. The association aims to protect all Americans and their communities from preventable, serious health threats and strives to assure community-based health promotion and disease prevention activities and preventive health services are universally accessible in the United States. APHA represents a broad array of health providers, educators, environmentalists, policy-makers and health officials at all levels working both within and outside governmental organizations and educational institutions. More information is available at