Teen athletes derive many positive benefits from participating in sports, but their increased risk of sports-related injuries may also heighten their risk for medication misuse and abuse, especially for boys, finds a recent study in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Nearly 7.5 million adolescents take part in sports at the high school level and 2 million high school athletic injuries occur each year.
"We should expect that adolescents who participate in competitive sports at the interscholastic level are at a greater risk to get injured and, subsequently, be more likely to be prescribed opioids to manage pain," said lead researcher Philip Veliz, Ph.D., of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
The study, which followed 1,540 teens, showed that male athletes were more likely to use and misuse opioids medications on at least one occasion in the past year than non-athlete males. However, said Veliz, "one surprise was that female athletes were not more likely to be prescribed these medications or misuse them."
Male athletes may be more likely to be prescribed opioid medication because they are more likely to play sports such as wrestling and football, which have the highest rate of severe injury among high school sports. But their misuse and abuse of the medications may also have something to do with the role that sports play in the lives of young men, say the researchers.
"Adolescent males depend on sports for social status, the maintenance of relationships with male peers and family members," said Veliz. "In other words, sports are a powerful site to be recognized as a man, and male adolescents will sacrifice their bodies through athletic performances to prove their masculinity. Consequently, opioid use and misuse among males could be the byproduct of a play-through-pain culture."