The 5 Most Dangerous High School Sports
High school sports play an important role in the lives of many students and parents. They provide exercise at a critical time for many young people that are learning to develop healthy living habits, they build teamwork skills and camaraderie, and contribute to school spirit like nothing else.
However, like many physical activities, participating in high school sports often carries with it some risk of injury. If you’re thinking about what high school sport would be best for you or the student in your life, it’s important to do your research, understand which high school sports are the most dangerous, and learn the benefits of taking up a sport while in school.
Football is ingrained in many American minds as the quintessential high school sport. Each game demands the highest production value, pulling in players, cheerleaders, the marching band, and often drawing large crowds of fellow students and local supporters. In popular media, football players are often considered the kings of campus.
However, in recent years more information is starting to come out about the dangers associated with football. One recent study found that 87% of former football players had CTE, a degenerative neurological condition caused by repeated impacts to the head. Outside of brain damage, football players can also suffer from sprains, bruises, fractures, dislocations, and concussions on the field. There’s no denying that football is a high-impact sport and, even with protective padding, many players can suffer injury from the repeated and powerful hits that they take during a game.
Organizers are trying to make the game safer. The NFL recently adopted new helmet guidelines in an effort to curb head and neck injuries. The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh recommends that players use full protective gear before playing and that they do warm-up and cooldown exercises before and after each game to avoid muscle pulls and tendon ruptures.
Basketball is another relatively popular high school sport. Although the highest levels of the sport tend to favor taller players, anyone can play and have fun on a high school team.
Compared to football, basketball is a fairly low-contact sport. It also relies on players being able to run back and forth across the court, changing direction on a dime, so players wear very little in the way of protective equipment. That may be the reason why so many basketball players suffer dental injuries — they receive accidental elbows to the mouth without a mouthguard.
Like football, players can benefit themselves by wearing some safety gear, such as a mouthguard, to protect themselves. Since basketball is such a physically intensive sport, it’s also good for players to be in good physical shape and to stretch before and after the games to help prevent muscle and tendon tears or pulls. Good footwear can
also reduce the stress that the hardwood courts can place on players’ knees, as well as providing good knee support while pivoting.
Soccer is becoming more popular in the United States, a growth trajectory that may likely only continue thanks to the U.S. victory at the Women’s World Cup in 2019. Compared to other sports like football or basketball, soccer may seem to involve less hard physical contact. After all, the players are spread out over a large field, giving them plenty of space to avoid each other.
However, in spite of the size of the field and the fact that only a few players are ever in close proximity to one another, it’s still easy for injuries to arise as players jostle for control over the ball. Soccer players can suffer contact injuries such as cuts, bruises, fractures, sprains, and concussions, either from a sliding tackle from another player or an accidental collision as two players try to head the ball.
Soccer players wear very little in the way of protective gear. However, good cleats and shin guards can help to prevent some injuries. Maintaining proper fitness and using good judgment on the field can also help.
Unlike football or soccer, baseball players are rarely in a position to smash into one another or sustain debilitating injuries. While players do still suffer injuries in the game, they are relatively minor compared to other sports, although there is still a risk. Some of the most common baseball injuries include sprains and strains, either from repetitive use of muscles for throwing, catching, or hitting the ball, or from taking tight corners around bases while running at high speeds.
Some positions on the field also suffer from unique injuries based on their specific role on the team. For example, catchers can suffer from blood vessel and nerve injuries in their catching hand due to repetitive high-speed impacts from the ball. As with other sports, using good gear, such as a heavily padded catcher’s mitt, or wearing extra padding under the mitt, can help to mitigate the risk of injury.
The placement of gymnastics and cheerleading on this list may surprise you. After all, these sports only see hard physical contact between participants if something has gone very wrong. Nonetheless, gymnasts and cheerleaders can still suffer injuries in the pursuit of their craft.
Cheerleaders can suffer from sprains and strains following bungled stunts, either in practice or on the field. More serious mistakes can lead to fractures, dislocations, or even concussions.
Harm doesn’t just happen on the field, though. Some former gymnasts have reported feeling pressured by coaches, peers, and the sport’s environment to adopt unhealthy and unrealistic body proportions. These pressures can lead some athletes to develop eating disorders or poor self-esteem, causing an otherwise healthy athlete to engage in extremely unhealthy behaviors in the fruitless pursuit of perfection.
With all high school sports, safety is often a matter of using good equipment, exercising good judgment on and off the field, consulting with medical professionals where needed, and having candid conversations about the value of sports and realistic expectations about performance. Remember, at the end of the day, it’s just a game. Playing a sport in high school can be a fun way to stay healthy, but it’s important not to push yourself into the danger zone and risk serious injury.