High School Sports: Risk vs. Reward

Stitched Panorama
Picture Credit: Wikipedia. Stitched panorama of AA Championship high school hockey at the Xcel Energy Center

The positive aspects, physical and psychological, of participation in scholastic contact sports are widely touted. However, the risks and dangers are less frequently discussed. Some parents allow their children to play hockey because they imagine the rewards greatly outweigh the risks. Parents could only arrive at this conclusion if they lack a full understanding of the risks and rewards.

Excerpt of Letter to Editor by Stephen J. Barrer | New York Times

If the reward is perceived as providing access to higher education via a scholarship, or to a professional career, the opposite is true; the risks far outweigh the benefits. It has been estimated that of all scholastic athletes who play at the varsity level in high school, only 2 percent receive scholarships to play in college. Only a small fraction of a percent ever play professionally. A much greater number of scholar-athletes suffer injuries of all types, concussions included.

STEVEN J. BARRER, Huntingdon of Valley, Pa. is a neurosurgeon and director of the Concussion Evaluation Service at Abington Memorial Hospital in Abington, Pa.


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Thanks to Steven J. Barrer for sharing his thoughts; New York Times for referring to¬†Barrer’s letter to the editor; Google for helping me find the letter; Wikipedia for supplying the picture; and all the people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture and text in this post.


  1. I think a lot of benefit comes from any type of sport so long as you have the right motivation and proper instruction. Self esteem, agility and strategy skills to name a few.
    Unfortunately many people are victory only, for any number of reasons. In high school especially this causes ridiculous pressure, making mistakes… and injuries more likely.
    Accidents are a possibility in high school as well as organized but if your motivation was in the right place recovery is not so much a chore but something that just needs to be done to continue doing whatever you love to do.

    1. Deb, I definitely agree there are many benefits to participation in sports. As you mentioned, the benefits are overshadowed by the people (players, parents, administrators, coaches, and scouts) who believe victory is always the best option for the players. Participation in sports also teaches the much-needed humility that we cannot all be winners 100% of the time. The danger I see is that the mentality of “get back in the game” is there are times when players should not get back into the game so soon. While it may be beneficial to the school, the community, or an individual’s pride to return quickly, it may not be the best physical or cognitive decision for the player.

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