A question posed by The Huffington Post in a very good article by Elias De Leon.
From the article:
There are certain benefits of playing sports that have become almost indisputable from a scientific standpoint. For instance, countless studies have shown that the physical exercise associated with sports makes athletes generally healthier than less active people. But other claims about the benefits of sports aren’t so well established, although they are just as commonly believed. And according to sports sociologist Jay Coakley, the link between sport programs and the positive changes they are supposed to create for individuals and communities is unproven.
“That belief is much more mythical than factual,” said Coakley, who is a professor emeritus at University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. “There is no empirical support for that particular belief.”
[Coakley] says the best studies are longitudinal, following athletes and non-athletic peers through their adolescent years and then comparing incidents of violence.
Some of the most recent research to do that is from Xin Jiang, a PhD candidate at Ohio State, who studied data provided by more than 13,000 teens from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Her study, published this year in the Journal of Youth Adolescence, did not find "across-the-board advantages"--in other words, lower odds of being involved in violence--for young people who participated in sports-centered extracurriculars. Jiang wrote that the “ﬁndings challenge the viewpoint that participation in mainstream extracurricular activities… is equally beneﬁcial for all youth.”
Meanwhile, there are certain sports that studies have found to be associated with increasing violent behavior. In a 2007 study of NLSAH data, Penn State criminologist Derek Kraeger found that football players and wrestlers are significantly more likely than teens who don’t play sports to get in serious fights. And even when they aren’t athletes themselves, boys are more likely to fight if their friends play football.