2 July 1998

Teen Jocks Get Better Grades

Judging by David Beckham's red card antics in St Etienne, you don't need mental intelligence to be a sporting genius. But the soon-to-be husband of Posh Spice may take some consolation from the finding of a University of Michigan study that teens who play sports get better grades. Unfortunately, they are also more likely to drink and use drugs.

In what amounts to yet another confirmation of the connection between sporting prowess and unhealthy bingeing, the study refutes the wholesome image of high school sports. Yet it goes some way towards redeeming the much-maligned stereotype of the "stupid jock".

"The take-home message for parents is that adolescent involvement in sports has positive effects on academic performance, but it also increases the likelihood of drinking and drug use," says UM psychologist Jacquelynne Eccles, first author of an article on the study forthcoming in the Journal of Adolescent Research.

"Other types of organized, extracurricular activities have the same benefits without the risks."

While the research does not identify the reasons why involvement in sports is linked with drinking and drug use, Eccles notes that playing sports is not associated with other problem behaviours such as playing hooky or dropping out of school.

"We often think drinking and other problem behaviours go together, and they certainly do in many children," she says. "But not in all cases, and especially not in those who are also involved in positive activities."