- Diamond AB, et al. Br J Sports Med. 2016;50:149-153, http://bit.ly/1XC2nHH.
Many young athletes report being subjected to team initiation activities that are considered hazing, but they don’t recognize such practices as hazing, according to a review of the scientific literature in collegiate and school sports.
Researchers searched PubMed, Google Scholar, MEDLINE and several other databases for studies on hazing. They noted that although hazing and bullying often are used interchangeably, they differ in that hazing may not be repetitive and the victim may participate willingly in a dangerous or humiliating activity to gain acceptance to a group.
One study reviewed showed that many college athletes saw their hazing experience as positive. Other studies, however, showed that hazing victims experienced negative reactions such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, low self-esteem, aggression and substance abuse.
The prevalence of sports hazing varied widely across studies. A national study of hazing at the college level found up to 80% of athletes said behaviors that are considered hazing were part of their team initiation. However, only 12% of college athletes reported being hazed.
In studies of high school students, the incidence of hazing ranged from 17% to 48%, while 5% to 17% of middle school athletes reported hazing activities. Many younger athletes did not recognize initiation activities as dangerous.
The literature also showed hazing rates were similar among male and female athletes, but males were subjected to more physical acts.
The authors noted that one reason hazing continues is the myth that it promotes team building. Therefore, more education on the dangers of hazing and how it negatively affects team cohesion are needed not only among athletes but also among coaches, athletic administrators and health care providers.
“In addition, those involved with athletics should be encouraged to understand the importance of a zero tolerance policy and initiate a shift away from negative hazing-like actions to positive team building activities,” the authors said.