If you thought the issue of hazing in high school sports was bad, it could actually be worse.
A large majority of student-athletes who are hazed don’t describe it as hazing, leading to fewer reported incidents, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
In one study, 71 percent of students who have been hazed reported resulting negative effects — both physical and psychological. In another study, the figure was 47 of student-athletes, but only 8 percent of those identified the behavior as hazing, according to research conducted by Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Dr. Alex Diamond.
“The numbers are striking,” said Diamond. “Very few — if they report it at all — will identify it as hazing. Then if you ask what actually happened to them or for them to describe the events, overwhelmingly, the description turns out to be hazing. We need to educate athletes to understand what hazing is versus what positive team building is.”
Even worse, Diamond’s research suggests college students perceive hazing in a positive light.
Diamond and his VUMC colleagues — Drs. Todd Callahan, Kelly Chain and Gary Solomon — took on the project in hopes of educating the public about mental health issues in sports medicine.
“Suicide is the third leading killer of college athletes,” Diamond told Science Daily. “That’s crazy to me — the third leading cause — and we almost never talk about it.”
The research shows that student-athletes are more at-risk for mental illness because of added stressors such as the pressure to perform and their self-identity being tied to the sport.
“I think mental health is the next big area that we in sports medicine need to tackle because we have ignored it for so long,” Diamond said.
If 47 percent of student-athletes are hazed, which Diamond’s research suggests, only 8 percent of them call it hazing and even fewer ever report the behavior, the actual number of hazing incidents compared to those that make the news — of which there are many — could be tenfold.
Obviously, the severity of hazing activity varies from case to case, but it’s a scary thought what some of the more bizarre behavior might be doing to this generation of student-athletes’ psyche.