Sports have been around for centuries. In every continent, country, and city, some type of physical activity is taking place that qualifies as a “sport”. According to ESPN, in the United States over 21.5 million kids are playing team sports between the ages of six and seventeen. This number drops significantly as people grow older and the number one reason for this is because of the risk of injury. Sports have their benefits but they also have physical consequences. They are the cause of many permanent injuries, and sometimes even death, but they also play a huge factor in keeping the population healthy and fit.
Playing sports means getting exercise and it is a proven fact that exercise keeps the body healthy. Exercising releases endorphins which are chemicals in the brain that reduce the perception of pain and promote positive feelings. It also helps to burn fat, lower stress levels, and stimulate mental health. Playing sports can have a huge effect in a young child’s life. It teaches kids how to be discipline, how to work together, how to be apart of something bigger than themselves, and most of all it teaches kids how to be healthy. In order to succeed in most sports athletes need to be in very good physical shape. This causes them to watch what they eat and develop routines that promote muscle growth and stimulation.
The benefits of sports on an athlete’s body can be seen in every sport. Just about every few months, a story will come out about a professional athlete losing a lot of weight, and the amount it has improved their play. A prime example of this would be US Women’s National Soccer Team star Abby Wambach. When comparing her body from her freshman year of college at the University of Florida, to now one might not even recognize her. She was never big by any means, but the amount of weight she lost over these fifteen years is significant. Being 5’11” she already over powered her opponents, but she decided to make a change in her nutrition and it was obvious. She went from a soccer player, to a ripped and toned athlete, and was even featured in the 2012 ESPN Body Issue. This elevated her play to a whole new level. Because of the increase in her training and nutrition she became faster and stronger allowing her to become even more of a menace on the field. Already a two time Olympic Gold Medalist, 2012 World FIFA player of the year, and the holder of the all time scoring record, Abby claims she will be the fittest she has ever been for the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
Sports also cause a lot of harm to athletes’ bodies. Not only can nagging injuries develop over time that make the simplest of movements for athletes unbearable, but arthritis is usually in almost every elite athlete’s future. Surprisingly, these are considered the “small harms” of playing sports when looking at cases such as Kevin Everett, Kevin Ware, Tyler Kopp, and Alex Newsome. Many people will most likely not know all of these names, but they are prime examples of what harm sports can bring to an athlete no matter their age. Football player, Kevin Everett, was a Tight End for the Buffalo Bills. During their 2007 home opener against the Denver Broncos, he collided head on with another player, and suffered a “life threatening” fracture and dislocation of his cervical spine. Unlike Eric LeGrand, a former Rutgers football player who was paralyzed during a game, Kevin Everett was able to walk again in December of that same year.
Kevin Ware is a name that many people will most likely remember. He was a guard on the Louisville Men’s basketball team, and on March 31, 2013 suffered a visibly disturbing injury. They were playing Duke in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament when he attempted to block a shot, landed on his right leg awkwardly, and clearly broke his tibia. The bone went through the skin, and was sticking out as he laid on the floor in pain. Although surgery and rehab has allowed him to get back on the court, he has never been able to fully recover mentally and physically, and is no longer on the Louisville basketball team. The harm that was caused by his sport has had a major impact on his life.
Unlike Kevin Everett and Kevin Ware, Tyler Kopp and Alex Newsome suffered the greatest amount of harm a sport could cause. They were both killed while playing their sport, and were both under the age of thirteen. Twelve year old, Tyler Kopp was a lacrosse player from Brighton, New York who was hit in the chest with a lacrosse ball during a game. The impact of the ball caused his heart to stop immediately. Alex Newsome was eleven years old when he was struck in the head during baseball practice. He was pitching batting practice and a line drive came right at his head. He was standing behind a screen, but his head was not fully protected. He was resuscitated on the field by his coaches, but later died at a nearby hospital that night. Tyler and Alex were killed while playing their sports, showing just how harmful sports can be.
Sports can be extremely beneficial to one’s body, or they can cause an unbelievable amount of harm. When the LSA Themed Semester of Sport and the University asks the question “how does sport benefit and harm the body?” there is not a solid answer that can be given. Every person is affected differently by sports. Some people can suffer serious injuries that will impact their every day life forever, while others will become the healthiest they have even been. The person, the day, and fate, will decide how someone can be effected by a game, and whether it is helpful or harmful.