Unique Aspen Institute Tool to Help Children Find the Right Sport This Fall Season

June 5, 2019

The Healthy Sport Index provides data-driven analysis for parents on health benefits and risks for football, soccer, baseball, cross country, volleyball and more  

Contact: Jon Solomon
Editorial Director, Sports & Society Program
The Aspen Institute

Washington, DC, June 5, 2019 – Parents say they enroll their child in sports largely for two main reasons – their child’s interest and to increase physical activity, according to a national survey by the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program and Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). As parents consider which sports to register their child for this fall, the Healthy Sport Index offers a resource to help them make informed decisions related to health, including the amount of physical activity offered by a sport.

The Healthy Sport Index is a first-of-its-kind tool created by the Aspen Institute and HSS to assess the health benefits of the most popular adolescent sports. Twenty high school boys and girls sports were evaluated based on the best available data and expert analysis in three areas of health – physical activity, injury risk, and social, emotional and mental well-being.

Visit HealthySportIndex.com. Watch a video explaining how to use the tool.

To measure physical activity, North Carolina State University researchers documented the degree to which players in different sports moved their bodies at high school practices. Each sport was measured by the proportion of participants who exhibit vigorous exercise, walking, and lying down/sitting/standing.

Vigorous Exercise at Boys Practices           Vigorous Exercise at Girls Practices

Cross Country, 68%                                        Cross Country, 57%

Track and Field, 60%                                     Soccer, 56%

Swimming, 57%                                             Swimming, 56%

Wrestling, 55%                                               Volleyball, 48%

Soccer, 50%                                                    Basketball, 40%

Lacrosse, 46%                                                 Lacrosse, 38%

Tennis, 41%                                                    Tennis, 36%

Basketball, 40%                                              Track and Field, 31%

Football, 39%                                                 Softball, 20%

Baseball, 29%                                                 Competitive Cheerleading, 16%

Boys exhibited more vigorous exercise than girls. For instance, track and field showed a major gap by gender – 60% of boys practiced vigorously, compared to 31% of girls. Researchers found this was likely due to how much additional time girls spent on activities not intended to be part of the content at practice, such as transitioning between drills, water breaks, and changing equipment. Girls in track spent 30% of their practices in these types of activities, compared to 9% for boys in track.

At HealthySportIndex.com, parents will find additional health data and analysis tied to injuries and mental, social and emotional well-being. Each evaluated sport includes recommendations for complementary sports to play based on overall health and athletic skill development in a child’s primary sport. This can be particularly helpful for children who are cut by a team in one sport and may want to find a new sport to play.

The Healthy Sport Index recognizes that how each sport experience is served differs from school to school, and team to team. A finding of lower emphasis on any of the three defined priorities does not imply that choosing that sport is detrimental, just that other sports may offer greater benefits based on data.

In addition, the Healthy Sport Index is searching for innovative high school teams that apply best practices for sports health. Winners will be promoted nationally as a model for others in their sport and receive a financial award. High school teams may apply here. Read the rules here.

Sports & Society Program Editorial Director Jon Solomon, who managed the Healthy Sport Index project, is available for media interviews. Contact Jon at jon.solomon@aspeninstitute.org.

The mission of the Sports & Society program is to convene leaders, foster dialogue, and inspire solutions that help sport serve the public interest, with a focus on the development of healthy children and communities. The program provides a venue for thought leadership where knowledge can be deepened and breakthrough strategies explored on a range of issues. Its signature initiatives are Project Play and Future of Sports.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.

HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the ninth consecutive year), No. 3 in rheumatology and a Best Hospital for Pediatric Orthopedics by U.S. News & World Report. For more information, visit www.HSS.edu.


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