JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer
Reiling, Assistant Editor.
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.
THE DANGERS IN COMPETITIVE COLLEGE ATHLETICS. JAMA. 2003;289(15):2004. doi:10.1001/jama.289.15.2004
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