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JAMA 100 Years Ago
April 16, 2003

THE DANGERS IN COMPETITIVE COLLEGE ATHLETICS.

Author Affiliations
 

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2003;289(15):2004. doi:10.1001/jama.289.15.2004

Recent statements by prominent educators opposing modern tendencies in college athletics have been accompanied, it happens, by numerous publications with a similar tendency based on considerations of the purely physical dangers. As baseball has been displaced from its pinnacle of student adoration by the more violent football, and as the annual growth in the fierceness of competition is leading to more and more protracted training of the athletes in all competitive lines, whatever serious results may follow are likely to be greatly increased. From the standpoint of the educator the great question lies in the moral effect on the student body as a whole, and on the individuals participating, of the intensity of emotion and of interest that the great inter-collegiate contests engender. For a large part of the year the interest of the athlete is centered on athletics at the expense of the many other things that go to make up the college career and training; for a number of weeks the same condition affects the entire mass of students. That both good and bad results may come is evident, and the effort of those in authority will probably be directed to so altering conditions that the good may increase as the bad diminishes, rather than to entirely cut out all intercollegiate contests, as some have urged. Intercollegiate athletic contests have too strong a hold on the public to be exterminated by faculty authority. But in addition to the pedagogic features of the question there are matters of pathologic interest and physiologic development that concern both the student of physical culture and the medical adviser. To the former the burning question is the tendency to center all effort on the team, or nine, or crew, that is to represent the institution in competition, and to which all eyes are turned through profusely illustrated newspaper reports as well as by appearances in public. The result is that a minute fraction of the university population, generally the part that already has through natural endowment or previous training the best physical development, is singled out for all the care, advice and training, while the average student who needs the attention far more is left more or less to his own devices. What should be the great aim of the school, to bring all to a proper degree of general development, is sacrificed to carry a very few to the utmost limits of power in some special line.

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