There is no doubt about the several benefits of playing sports during high school. Besides, of course, the physical and social benefits, such as encouraging a healthy way of life and an expanding social network, sports contribute to building character and keeping students away from drugs and drinking. Some other long term effects, though, have become worrying, like concussions. The question is: considering the serious risks, is playing sports still worth it?
Playing sports can become psychologically and physically damaging when they are taken way too seriously and people start to ignore their limits.
According to P.E. department chair and teacher Jamie Smith, sports are important during high school years because it teaches students about teamwork, responsibility, dedication and self motivation. But athletes must find a way to manage their time properly by balancing sports and academics, so that they can keep up with their priorities and avoid negative effects.
Playing sports can become psychologically and physically damaging when they are taken way too seriously and people start to ignore their limits. Some athletes feel so much pressure, sometimes from their parents or from their coaches or even from themselves, that they appeal to highly questionable methods to improve themselves. Examples of this include having excessive protein and even doing steroids that can cause hormonal and sexual disorders, temporary infertility, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and several other physical changes. It is estimated that about 3.5 million Americans do steroids and about 3% of American teenagers have tried it at some point in their lives.
Another big issue is that when an athlete does not train properly, in an attempt to build the necessary muscles, one can tear an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament injury) or other injuries. When this happens, it needs a certain time to heal. If the athlete doesn’t take a break, it will never actually heal, and serious problems will result in the future. “It is some of those things where kids and people around them need to be very realistic about it. You need to stop and rest so later in life you will be able to walk and do the things you want to do,” Smith said.
A lot of attention has been given to concussions, especially in football. As concussions are accumulative throughout life, if not diagnosed, they can end up causing severe cognitive deficits. A concussion is most often caused by a sudden, direct blow or bump to the head, something very common in contact sports.
Senior Nick Clark, who has been involved with football since the age of 6, has recovered from a lot of ankle injuries. This year he broke his ankle during practice but said that football is such a big part of his life that even with all of the risks, it is still worth playing. He added that playing sports is a great way to make the body healthy and make friends.
Smith agreed. “It is all about being smart, like with anything you do in life. I played sports all of my way through high school and collage. All of the things I learned from it I use now in my life. I think I wouldn’t be where I am at today if I didn’t have those experiences when I was younger.”
Ana Paula Cunha
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