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Does Playing Sports make you more violent?

Some people raise the question of whether sports make an individual more aggressive outside of the game. There are many factors that go into aggression, including learned habits, chemical composition, and behavioral reinforcement. The conditions of playing a sport make it possible that a person would become more violent, but it's also possible that the opposite effect could occur. Here are some of the main factors that might determine whether sports makes a person become aggressive.


Catharsis
Catharsis is the process of releasing the frustrations and aggression that builds up inside the body. One of the frequent causes of violence is the need for catharsis, or the need to release negative emotions in a physical way. However, exercise can be another form of catharsis, especially in sports that involve a lot of physical contact with a ball or other humans. For this reason, athletes in sports like soccer or basketball may actually be less violent outside of the game than other people in similar demographic groups. Encouraging players to use sports as a means of catharsis could actually be a way to counter violence outside of the game.


Endorphins
Endorphins are one of the feel good hormones that are released during exercise. They counteract some of the negative effects of stress hormones and other mood suppressing hormones in the body. Since the amount of endorphins would generally be higher in athletes, it may follow that they would be less aggressive. However, it's unsure whether the presence of endorphins during the game and directly after it have any longer term effects on personality and behavior.

Testosterone
In males, testosterone may be a factor that makes sports players more violent. Testosterone fuels aggression in humans, especially males. Physical activity is one of the things that can raise the standing levels of testosterone in the human body. From this, it would make sense that sports players may become more aggressive in every day life. However, this would depend on the individual and the overall mix of hormones present in that person's body. Also, testosterone does not affect every person in the same way, so it's very hard to predict whether high levels of testosterone would have an aggressive result.

Violent Images as the Norm
There is a possibility that seeing violence in sports makes a person more used to images of violence and injuries. There has been research that suggests that violent TV programs do make an individual more aggressive because they see violence as acceptable. They also react less emotionally and less negatively to violence. It is unclear so far how this translates to sports. Since the violence in sports is usually not done with malicious intent, it may not translate to violence in other situations. However, if a player is able to get away with violence in the sport, he or she may view violence as acceptable outside of the game.

In summary, there are many factors that contribute to aggression in and outside of sports. The four stimulants above could either make a person become more or less aggressive from playing sports. Since it's such a personal process that could go either way, it's much easier to analyze a sports player's aggressive behavior after the fact than it is to predict aggression. All the same, it's possible to control for some of these factors, such as by making violence unappealing and creating a sporting culture that does not condone aggression on the field. Individuals can also manage their sports related aggression by manipulating the factors above. 


About the author: 

Sarah writes on her blog about sports and for other blogs.

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