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

March 10, 2020

The Healthy Sport Index provides data-driven analysis for parents on health benefits and risks for baseball, softball, track and field, tennis, lacrosse, soccer and more

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

Washington, DC, March 10, 2020 –– 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). Among the key findings: Parents rely on medical providers and coaches as their primary sources of educational information about the benefits and risks of different sports.

As parents consider which sports to register their child for this spring, 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%

At HealthySportIndex.com, parents will find additional 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.

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 recognizing exemplary high school teams that apply best practices for sports health. High school teams may apply here. Read the rules here. Winners so far include:

Sports & Society Program Editorial Director Jon Solomon, who manages 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 a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners.

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 10 consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report. HSS has also been among the top-ranked hospitals for both orthopedics and rheumatology for 28 consecutive years. For more information, visit www.HSS.edu.


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