"Kids and Sports" (Video)
Grades 7-8 | Argumentative | Text-Dependent
Imagine that your school district is going to make a decision about continuing to fund sports programs in the schools. You have a chance to write an argumentative essay that will be read to the mayor, printed in the paper, or presented to the head of the school board or PTA. Your essay should state a position or claim by taking a clear side, back it up with research, and refute the other side of the argument.
Your job is to argue whether, overall, sports are more helpful or harmful to young people. Use what you know about argumentative essay writing to structure your writing. Be sure to back up your claim with reasons and evidence, supported by facts and details, and analysis of sources from your research.
THURSDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) — With the school football season just around the corner, a new study is raising awareness of the risks associated with playing the game. Researchers found that college football players get injured more often than their high school counterparts, but high school athletes are more likely to end up severely injured. The new findings also point to "where the focus should be in terms of prevention," said Dr. Cynthia LaBella, medical director of the Institute for Sports Medicine at Children's Memorial Hospital, in Chicago. She was not involved in the study, which is published in the August issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
A second report on youth sports injuries was also released Thursday, this time by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That study, published in this week's issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found that boys aged 10 to 14 were most likely to end up in the nation's emergency departments with a traumatic brain injury, and that activities such as bicycling, horseback riding, football, basketball and use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) were most often to blame.
The football study was led by R. Dawn Comstock, a primary investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Her team collected injury reports for the 2005-2006 football season from 100 high schools and 55 colleges across the country via two Internet-based systems — the High School Reporting Information Online (RIO) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Injury Surveillance System, respectively. Based on almost 1,900 injury reports submitted to the RIO, the researchers estimate there were 517,726 football-related injuries during the 2005-2006 season at the high school level across the United States. The NCAA system logged more than 3,500 injuries in its database during the same period.
Not unexpectedly, college players were about twice as likely to injure themselves as high school students, Comstock said, suffering 8.6 injuries per 1,000 "athlete-exposures" (a practice or competition), compared with high school athletes' 4.36 injuries/1,000. But the researcher said she was surprised to find that the distribution of injuries differed, with fractures, concussions, and season-ending injuries more common among high school athletes.
For instance, injuries to the lower leg, ankle and foot were common at both the high school and college levels. But while the knee is the second most-injured site among high school players, hip and thigh injuries were more common in college athletes. The study comes on the heels of findings released in July that found a much higher rate of catastrophic head injury among high school football players compared to college players.
LaBella noted that, if anything, this study is underestimating injuries at the high school level, because only schools with an athletic trainer on staff were included. It's possible that such schools have better resources and equipment than less well-funded schools, she said.
According to Comstock, the impetus behind this study was the lack of any injury reporting system at the high school level to match the NCAA's, which has been in place for more than 20 years. "We set out to replicate the NCAA system at the high school level," Comstock explained. "That's important, because right now, rules, protective equipment, and education at the high school level are largely based on information collected on college athletes, and high school athletes are not merely miniature versions of their collegiate counterparts."
High school athletes are less physically mature and have less muscle mass than collegiate athletes, for instance. They also have incomplete growth plates, meaning their bones are still developing. Inexperienced athletic techniques can also exacerbate their risk of injury, Comstock said.
But better coaching might help. For instance, Comstock noted that most injuries occurred during tackles, and that the most injured positions were running backs and linebackers. "So, at the high school level, especially with younger players, coaches can make sure the athletes are very well coached in the technique of tackling and are physically able to perform a tackle before they are allowed to play."
The CDC study showed that football is just one of many recreational activities in which young people can suffer serious harm. Poring over data from 2001-2005 from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System—All Injury Program, the researchers looked at the causes of almost 208,000 nonfatal sports and recreation-linked brain injuries.
Kids aged 10 to 14 were at highest risk for these injuries, and males accounted for more than 70 percent of head trauma cases, the CDC report found. Activities linked to high rates of emergency department admissions for brain trauma included ATV use, use of mopeds/dirtbikes/minibikes, bicycling, golf and scooter use.
So, sports and recreation can cause injury, the experts say, especially when safety equipment is lacking or safety rules are ignored. And yet Comstock also emphasized that parents should not use her team's study as an excuse to take their children out of football. "We have an epidemic of obesity in this country, and sports is one of the best ways for kids to incorporate exercise in their lives," she said. "Parents can help keep kids safe by making sure they wear all the appropriate protective equipment, and that their protective equipment fits properly and is in good repair." LaBella added that parents can also help their children by ensuring that they maintain good physical conditioning year-round, are properly coached in techniques such as tackling and falling, and — perhaps most important — that they tell someone, whether a parent, coach, or athletic trainer, if they are injured, especially in the head.
In the case of a concussion, the consequences of returning to the field before the injury has healed can range from post-concussive disorder (which includes chronic headaches, memory problems, sleep disturbances and depression) to, rarely, death, in the event of a secondary injury. "Encourage your child to let you know if they have pain or if they notice something different after a hit or a game," LaBella said. "It is not your job to know if something is important — let the medical professionals make that decision."
High school sports are an integral part of the fabric of Americans society with over 5 million youth participating in any school year. Here in Michigan almost 300,000 young people take part in high school sports every year. Moreover, school sports are justified because of their potential educational benefits.
For example, the mission statement of the National Federation of State High School Activity Associations indicates that it promotes "participation and sportsmanship" in an effort to "develop good citizens through interscholastic activities which provide equitable opportunities, positive recognition and learning experiences to students while maximizing the achievement of educational goals."
Not only are school sports justified on educational grounds, but researchers have shown that participation in them and other extracurricular activities have positive effects on adolescents. For example, a multi-year study conducted in Michigan has shown that children who participate in sports have increased educational aspirations, closer ties to school and increased occupational aspirations in youth. It has been demonstrated, then, that school sports participation has a number of desirable benefits.
This does not mean, however, that school sports are not without problems. An overemphasis on winning, year-round single sport participation, and difficulties finding qualified coaches are but a few of concerns facing leaders in the area. The over-emphasis on winning issue is especially significant as when this occurs the educational objectives for involvement are often forgotten. And while principals, athletic directors, and coaches have the ultimate responsibility for keeping winning in the proper perspective and must be held accountable for their actions, let's not place all the blame on them. The general public, parents and society is placing more emphasis on winning than ever before which, at times, pressures athletic personnel to deviate from the athlete-centered educational and personal development mission. We cannot let this happen. The educational objectives of high school sports must be recognized and placed in the forefront.
This does not imply that winning is unimportant and should not be emphasized at all. Leading youth development experts contend that one of the potential benefits of sports participation is the development of initiative or the ability to set and go after goals, which is part of the competitive process. Moreover, in a recent Institute for the Study of Youth Sports investigation of outstanding high school coaches who were recognized for the character and citizenship building contributions to players we found that these individuals were highly successful (winning over 70% of their games). They stressed winning, but never put winning before the personal and educational development of their players. Instead, they maintained a strong educational philosophy and did not just talk about building character in their players, but took daily actions to do so while at the same time pursuing excellence. The bottom line is that high school sports are still a highly desirable activity for students to participate in and should be supported for their educational benefits. However, we as taxpayers and proponents of positive youth development must insist that their educational objectives always come first. We cannot knowingly or unknowingly let winning become the only goal and must support school district, athletic director and coach efforts to always put the education and development of the student-athlete first.