UVM Study Links Participation In Team Sports To Decrease In Depression Among Boys

May 6, 2019

A new study has revealed some interesting findings about how kids' involvement in team sports can impact the development of the adolescent brain in positive ways.

Jim Hudziak, the chief of child psychiatry at the University of Vermont's Larner College of Medicine, is one of the authors of the report.

Listen to Hudziak's conversation with VPR's Mitch Wertlieb above.

Hudziak said the study shows that involvement in team sports correlates with a larger hippocampus among children between the ages of nine and 11. The hippocampus is a region of the brain that plays an important role in memory and dealing with stress, and depression has long been associated that part of the brain shrinking.

While this hippocampi finding holds true for girls and boys, Hudziak said, team sports were found to be particularly beneficial to the emotional and behavioral health of adolescent boys.

"Boys' depression scores were lower if they were on sports teams than not," Hudziak said.

According to Hudziak, this finding around depression scores only holds true for participation in team sports — not for individual sports. However, Hudziak notes that these findings could evolve as the children in the study grow older.

More from VPR's Vermont Edition — Watching Young Brains Grow: 'ABCD' Study To Monitor A Decade Of Development [Dec. 13, 2018]

The Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development study is looking at the brains of more than 10,000 kids around the country, including in Vermont. It will follow kids' brain development from age 10 to 20.

The study will also look at how other disciplines including music, meditation and diet impact brain development.

Disclosure: Mitch Wertlieb's daughter is involved in the ABCD study.