Objective: To examine the relationship between sports participation and health-related behaviors among high school students.
Design: Cross-sectional design using data from the 1997 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
Participants: A nationally representative sample of 14,221 US high school students.
Main outcome measures: Prevalence of sports participation among males and females from 3 ethnic groups and its associations with other health behaviors, including diet, tobacco use, alcohol and illegal drug use, sexual activity, violence, and weight loss practices.
Results: Approximately 70% of male students and 53% of female students reported participating on 1 or more sports teams in school and/or nonschool settings; rates varied substantially by age, sex, and ethnicity. Male sports participants were more likely than male nonparticipants to report fruit and vegetable consumption on the previous day and less likely to report cigarette smoking, cocaine and other illegal drug use, and trying to lose weight. Compared with female nonparticipants, female sports participants were more likely to report consumption of vegetables on the previous day and less likely to report having sexual intercourse in the past 3 months. Among white males and females, several other beneficial health behaviors were associated with sports participation. A few associations with negative health behaviors were observed in African American and Hispanic subgroups.
Conclusion: Sports participation is highly prevalent among US high school students, and is associated with numerous positive health behaviors and few negative health behaviors.