The benefits of playing sports aren’t just physical!

Sports participation in the United States is currently at record levels. In fact, at the high school level, sports participation continues to rise. The National Federation of State High School Associations estimated that more than 7.6 million high school students (over 55% of all students) played sports during the 2010-2011 academic year.

As orthopaedic surgeons, we are all too familiar with injuries that can occur in sports. Since May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine would like to focus on the many positive benefits of sports and encourage Americans to participate.

The physical benefits of competitive sports are the most obvious. Much attention has been given to the role of sports and exercise in decreasing the rates of obesity in our nation’s youth. While lower body mass indices among athletes is certainly a desirable marker, it is not the only purported advantage of the regular exercise that comes with sports participation. Lower rates of diabetes and hypertension, as well as improved cardiovascular and pulmonary function are all likely better health markers in athletes compared to non-athletes.

However, the benefits of sports are not simply limited to physical health. Playing sports has been linked to improvements in academic, social, and career success. Here are just a few reasons to consider playing sports or encouraging your children to play sports.

Social Benefits
Athletes in competitive sports are less likely to smoke or use illicit drugs. In a study of over 14,000 high school athletes published in the journal Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, the ones who played sports were less likely to use drugs. Likewise, a survey performed by the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse showed that the students who played sports were less likely to have smoked cigarettes or used drugs and were more likely to disapprove of others using them. Also, the Women’s Sports Foundation has stated that female high school athletes are 80% less likely to become pregnant than non-athletes.

Academic Benefits
Student taking testStudies performed among students in multiple states, including Wyoming, Iowa, and Colorado have shown that playing sports can actually increase success in the classroom. Various data demonstrates that athletes have higher grade point averages, higher standardized test scores, better attendance, lower dropout rates, and a better chance of going to college.

Career Benefits
A survey of individuals at the level of executive vice president of 75 Fortune 500 companies showed that 95% of them played sports in high school. While it might be hard to argue that sports could guarantee higher incomes, promotions, and better jobs, the leadership skills and development of teamwork, hard work, and determination might help prepare students to be leaders at work and in the community later in life.

While it is important for adults to be aware of the risks of injuries in various sports, both for themselves and for their kids, it is important to remember that there are many great reasons to play them as well!

Are there any benefits to playing sports you would like to add? Share them below!

Note: A modified version of this post appears as my post for the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine in the Be Active Your Way blog for the Department of Health and Human Services.

9 Responses to The benefits of playing sports aren’t just physical!

  1. As a final research project for my English 122 class, I have been researching the positive effects that high school athletics has on a student-athlete’s overall well-being when it comes to teaching valuable life lessons and skills, general attendance to school, and academic performance in the classroom. Through my research, I have found that participation in any sport can teach someone a lot of positive factors other than just how to play that particular sport. There are many valuable life lessons and priceless skills that can be gained from participating in competitive events. Also, a student-athlete’s academics can benefit when schools implement strict eligibility requirements. When schools implement these strict academic eligibility requirements in order to for the student to continue participating in sports, the students are much more likely to keep up their grades. Lastly, through my research I have found that students are much more likely to succeed in academics when they are present in school for a majority of the time. In order to thrive with academics, a student must be in attendance to class to learn the material, know what to study, and turn in assignments. This is where schools being to conduct not only strict academic eligibility requirements, but firm attendance policies for student-athletes to follow. There are many positive attributes to students participating in high school athletics, and possibly the most important benefits are those in which the young athletes are prepared for life after high school.

    I really enjoyed reading through your this post because it touches on some points I have made through my research. I thoroughly appreciated the topics that you covered here.

    • Alyssa, I am really glad you found it helpful! That means a lot to me. Let me know how I can help in any way in the future!

  2. It’s a good thing I am able to read this post of yours about the benefits of sports. Now, I have a lot of reason to continue with my passion in it because it will not only help me to be good on something but other factors like in physical and mental can give me a lot of advantages also.

Leave a reply

Please note: I cannot and will not provide specific medical information within these comments, just as I won't anywhere else. Also, I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or spam. If you have questions, please read My Comments Policy.

david-headshot I am an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, South Carolina.

On this blog, on my podcast, and in articles for numerous publications and in media interviews, I aim to provide you leading commentary and education on injury treatment and prevention to keep you performing at your best! Learn more about me >>


I'm excited to help with information and interviews for print, radio, television, and online media. Media information >>


Writing I write articles and columns for a number of publications and organizations. Writing information >>
Sports Medicine Simplified: A Glossary of Sports Injuries, Treatments, Prevention and Much More

Learn more about the glossary >>
© 2017 Dr. David Geier Enterprises, LLC

Site Designed by Launch Yourself