"I think the issue is more socio-economic than race," said Connor, who added that more research is needed to explore the slight behavior differences between black and white female high school athletes.
Connor stopped short of offering explanations for the apparent negative aspects of boys' team sports. One possibility, she said, is that there is a culture in male sports that creates a climate of poor behavior.
"There are certainly health benefits in playing team sports," said Connor. "But there is also this misconception, which is very widespread, that sports are all good. As a parent, you can't assume your kid is protected. Sports are what you and your child make of it."
Robert Regal, a psychologist in private practice in Valhalla, N.Y., agreed with Connor's findings. Part of the problem, he said, is that boys' teams may inherently attract athletes who are aggressive and highly competitive, leading to unruly behavior once they join a team.
"There are pre-existing expectations for both male and female athletes," he said. "To be a female athlete means not having the same kind of hyper-aggressive, big-man-on-campus image. For guys, team sports are played with a great deal of expectation for success. It's written into the team ethic.
"I'd be curious to see the behaviors of the top girls' teams, the ones that win the state championships. I suspect they mirror the behaviors of the boys," Regal added.
The American Psychological Association has more on the benefits of regular exercise.
SOURCES: Susan Connor, Ph.D., manager, injury preventi
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