WMU News

Increase in sports violence part real, part perception

May 2, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Frequent replays of late hits, brawls and flagrant fouls on various sports channels give the perception that violence in sports is increasing. And to an extent, it is. In fact, some sports have gotten rougher in part because they are also safer, says Dr. Jody A. Brylinsky, a WMU associate professor of health, physical education and recreation.

"If you look at actual behavior, sport is a lot more civil than it was historically," she says. "The rules have gotten more sane, in the sense that we try to protect athletes physically, we have much better protective equipment, and in some cases we've actually gotten a little less violent in the sense of protecting ourselves from harm.

"Because of all these protections and because of the media," says Brylinsky, "we have indeed seen more images of violence. So there's kind of a paradox here where sport is actually safer, but we're doing more violent things because we won't get hurt."

Brylinsky says some sports, like basketball and soccer, have increased in body contact and are rougher today, while players in most sports are larger than they were, which increases the violence level.

"Athletes' bodies are just bigger, stronger," Brylinsky says. "We've gotten much more technologically sound. So small people running into each other is a much less-violent act than large people running into each other."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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