New Research Identifies Parents’ Motivations When Deciding to Enroll Their Children in Organized Sports
New research from Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), in collaboration with The Aspen Institute, has identified the top factors driving parents’ decisions to enroll their children in organized sports. Among the key findings: Background information about the coach was the most critical factor, and parents rely on medical providers and coaches as their primary sources of educational information about the benefits and risks of different sports.
The results were shared in a podium presentation by researcher Titilayo Ologhobo, associate director of outcomes, Public and Patient Education at HSS, during the American Public Health Association’s 2019 Annual Meeting and Expo in Philadelphia.
Despite physical activity guidelines recommending at least an hour of daily physical activity for children and adolescents, about 76% do not meet the guidelines. “Participating in organized sports provides children with an opportunity to engage in physical activity on a regular basis. Our findings provide important information about how to better address that gap,” said Ologhobo.
The researchers surveyed parents across the country to assess their needs and perceptions about enrolling their children in organized sports. Overall, 87% of 1,858 parents who responded to the online survey had at least one child enrolled in organized sports. The major sports played by children and adolescents were soccer, basketball, baseball, football and tennis, with 60% of respondents’ children playing multiple sports.
The top three reasons for enrolling a child were the child’s interest (80%), to increase the child’s physical activity levels (74%) and because the parent played sports when they were young (56%). The most cited benefits for children participating in organized sports were improved physical health, improved mental health, fun and enjoyment, maintaining or achieving a healthy weight and improved social skills.
Parents’ top concerns about injury risks were concussion and head injury, broken bones, sprains, and strains and joint injuries. They reported relying on medical providers (64%), coaches (60%) and the Internet (57%) for safety information. Parents said their most important consideration for reducing the risk of injury was the coach’s knowledge, outranking sports equipment and facility maintenance and their own knowledge of injury prevention.
“Understanding parents’ needs and perceptions is a critical step in encouraging more children to take part in organized sports,” Ologhobo said. “Pediatricians and coaches need to be aware that parents are looking to them for information about the benefits and risks of different sports and that they count on coaches to keep their children safe.”
The findings from this research aided the development of the Healthy Sport Index (HSI), an online tool launched in October 2018 that helps athletes, parents and other stakeholders make informed decisions about which sports will best meet their goals. Developed by HSS and The Aspen Institute with the guidance of an advisory group including medical doctors, researchers and sports health specialists, the HSI combines the best available data and expert analysis to identify the relative benefits and risks of participating in the 10 most popular high school sports played by boys and girls.
HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the 14th consecutive year), No. 2 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2023-2024), and the best pediatric orthopedic hospital in NY, NJ and CT by U.S. News & World Report “Best Children’s Hospitals” list (2023-2024). In a survey of medical professionals in more than 20 countries by Newsweek, HSS is ranked world #1 in orthopedics for a fourth consecutive year (2023). Founded in 1863, the Hospital has the lowest readmission rates in the nation for orthopedics, and among the lowest infection and complication rates. HSS was the first in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center five consecutive times. An affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS has a main campus in New York City and facilities in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Long Island and Westchester County regions of New York State, as well as in Florida. In addition to patient care, HSS leads the field in research, innovation and education. The HSS Research Institute comprises 20 laboratories and 300 staff members focused on leading the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair and tissue regeneration. In addition, more than 200 HSS clinical investigators are working to improve patient outcomes through better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat orthopedic, rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases. The HSS Innovation Institute works to realize the potential of new drugs, therapeutics and devices. The HSS Education Institute is a trusted leader in advancing musculoskeletal knowledge and research for physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, academic trainees, and consumers in more than 165 countries. The institution is collaborating with medical centers and other organizations to advance the quality and value of musculoskeletal care and to make world-class HSS care more widely accessible nationally and internationally. www.hss.edu.