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Hurt And Be Hurt: The Lessons Of Youth Sports

When our children head out to play sports this spring, the pressure to win is so intense; a troubling new survey reveals 59% of young athletes say they expect to get hurt as part of the game. What's even more surprising - kids polled say coaches, teammates and in some cases even their own parents have tried to make them play injured and even suggested they hurt another player. 69% of young athletes who were hurt say they continued to play hurt and half of them say they hid their injuries so they could play.

The just released survey of 210 boys and 138 girls (ages 8 - 14) who play sports reveals:

* 63% say they have been hurt playing sports. 59% say it's part of the game and they expect it.

* 64% say they're afraid someone will hurt them while playing sports.

* 11% say they were offered gifts or money to hurt another player.

The survey was commissioned by the non-profit arm of i9 Sports. The survey also reveals:

* 81% of those who have been hurt say their teammates/friends have thought of them as tough, cool, a good player, or even a hero when they played hurt and "took one for the team."

* 42% of those hurt say they were called foul names if they sat out while hurt - some by their own mom and dad! Names include "wuss," "wimp," "cry baby" or "mama's boy." Other names were given but were too graphic to print.

* 29% say they are secretly glad when a player on the other team gets hurt.

So who's influencing our young players to rough-it-up at all cost?

* 34% say their coaches' priority is the win over safe play.

* 16% of the respondents said they or their teammates tried to hurt another player. When asked who gave them the idea, 57% said teammates, 23% said their mom or dad, and 11% said coaches.

* Of the 37% of respondents who said someone made them or tried to make them play while hurt, 52% said it was a teammate, 41% said it was a coach, 35% said it was one of their parents.

"I'm concerned about the direction of youth sports," says Dr. Robert Cantu, renowned neurosurgeon, expert on youth sports safety and acclaimed author of the book Concussion and Our Kids. "Over the past twenty years or so it's all become so serious. Fun no longer seems to be the main object. Now it seems to be about grooming your child to be a star . . . It can be taken to extremes."

"Across the country, young players are all-too-frequent victims of a sports culture that's turning its back on them," says Mark Hyman, sports journalist and author of Until It Hurts: America's Obsession With Youth Sports. "With each passing season youth sports seem to stray further and further from their core mission of providing healthy, safe and character-building recreation for children."

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Comments welcome.

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