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School Sports May Cut Rates of Violence, Bullying Among Teens

SUNDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- Playing school sports is known to have many benefits for teens, but researchers have found a new reason to encourage kids to take up a sport: It may reduce teen girls' likelihood of being involved in violence and some teen boys' risk of being bullied.

In the study, researchers examined data from about 1,800 high school students, aged 14 to 18, who took part in the 2011 North Carolina Youth Risk Behavior Survey, and found that 25 percent played team sports, 9 percent took part in an individual sport, and 17 percent played both team and individual sports.

Girls involved in individual or team sports were less likely to have been in a fight in the past year than girls who didn't play sports (14 percent versus 22 percent, respectively). Girls who played sports were also less likely than nonathletes to have carried a weapon in the past 30 days (6 percent versus 11 percent, respectively).

However, boys who played individual or team sports were no less likely than boys who did not play sports to fight or carry a weapon. About 32 percent of boys in the study reported fighting and 36 percent reported carrying weapons in the past 30 days, according to the study presented Sunday at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

"Athletic participation may prevent involvement in violence-related activities among girls but not among boys because aggression and violence generally might be more accepted in boys' high school sports," senior author Dr. Tamera Coyne-Beasley, a professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release.

The researchers did find that boys who played team sports were less likely to be bullied than boys who played individual sports.

"Though we don't know if boys who play team sports are less likely to be the perpetrators of bullying, we know that they are less likely to be bullied," Coyne-Beasley noted. "Perhaps creating team-like environments among students such that they may feel part of a group or community could lead to less bullying."

The data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The Nemours Foundation explains how parents can teach kids not to bully.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, May 5, 2013

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