The sports media has to do better to address major issues within the world of sports
For the most part, the sports media is falling dreadfully short when it comes to examining major sports problems, why they exist, and what can be done to mitigate them or prevent them.
Even when key issues and scandals are identified, sports journalists provide neither root cause analysis nor possible remedies.
As such, the following 2024 New Year’s resolutions are proposed for the sports media.
Resolution One: Revisit CTE and change the focus of your coverage
The latest research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) reveals that the primary cause of (CTE) is not concussions but repetitive sub-concussive blows to the head.
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And more emphasis needs to be placed on the impact of brain injuries on young athletes. A Boston University CTE Center study found that of contact sports participants who died under age 30, 41.4 percent had signs of CTE.
“This study clearly shows that the pathology of CTE starts early,” says Ann McKee, director of the Center and a professor of neurology and pathology at BU. “The fact that over 40 percent of young contact and collision sport athletes in the UNITE Brain Bank have CTE is remarkable considering that studies of community brain banks show that fewer than one percent of the general population has CTE.”
Resolution Two: Spotlight the physical inactivity epidemic
A new study in the American Journal of Medicine found that, on a national level, physical inactivity prevalence is unacceptably high.
Especially troubling is that children and adolescents are heavier, less fit, and less active than ever before.
According to The 2022 United States Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, children and youth earned a D- in “Overall Physical Activity” and a D in “Sedentary Behaviors.”
Resolution Three: Take a deep dive into the holistic health of college athletes
One of the costs of the greed-based college sports industry is the declining mental health of athletes. During a very short span in 2022, five college student-athletes committed suicide.
A University of Michigan study found that 63 percent of student-athletes reported having an emotional or mental health issue that had affected their athletic performance in the four weeks before the survey. Only 10 percent of athletes with mental health conditions reached out for help with mental health challenges compared to 30 percent of college students in general.
Resolution Four: Seriously examine the role “adults” have played in the broken youth sports system
It’s parents and coaches who push kids to specialize in a single sport long before they reach the age of 10, which too often leads to overuse injuries and emotional burnout. It’s parents and coaches who focus on college athletic scholarships for young athletes despite statistics that show that only one to two percent of high school senior athletes get any type of financial aid for sports. It’s parents and coaches who verbally – and sometimes physically – abuse game officials, some of whom are only teenagers.
The sports media should look at any existing or potential solution that gives youth sports back to the kids.
Resolution Five: Bring attention to Title IX and the growing gaps between male and female athletes in the areas of funding and opportunities
After celebrating the 50th anniversary of Title IX on June 23, 2022, we collectively padded ourselves on the back and took our eye off the issue of gender equity in sports.
According to an excellent USA Today study, for every dollar colleges and universities spent on travel, equipment and recruiting for men’s teams in recent years, they spent just 71 cents on women’s teams.
Title IX is a fair and just law. It’s shameful that, more than 50 years after its enactment, our schools still aren’t treating each gender equally. The sports media should pressure the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to aggressively enforce Title IX and to improve education initiatives regarding the law.
Resolution Six: Investigate legalized sports gambling dangers and recommend necessary checks and balances
Legalized sports gambling has proliferated quickly, state by state, across the United States in a hodgepodge way. In many respects, we’re in a Wild Wild West era of legalized sports gambling, in which almost anything goes.
Consumers are being bombarded with excessive – and, in some cases, dangerous – ads and promotions for sports gambling today.
Legalized sports gambling must be effectively and efficiently regulated, taxed, and policed. To that end, a lot more guardrails need to be implemented.
Ken Reed, sports policy director for League of Fans, a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader. Reed’s work involves advocating for what he sees as positive changes in the sports world, focusing on issues like safety, equity, ethics and fair play. He is the author of The Sports Reformers, Ego vs. Soul in Sports, and How We Can Save Sports.
For interview requests, click here.
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