The Pros and Cons of Sport

Connor McGaughey

Sport and exercise are good for you… aren’t they? I was generally the smallest player on the rugby pitch, but the confidence, feeling of belonging, social skills, and physical fitness are the reasons I encourage my kids to partake in individual and team sports today.

However, it is somewhat of a double-edged sword. Positive effects are achieved primarily through physical activity, which is the main part of most sports. Secondary effects bring health benefits, such as psychosocial development, personal confidence, lower alcohol consumption (among adults); and those who can continue participation enjoy lower rates of obesity, hypertension and mental health issues. Additionally, sport can develop knowledge of nutrition, exercise, and health, which can be incorporated into lifelong healthy habits.

The flip side of the sword can be split into two camps. Firstly, the psychological impact of failing to meet one’s expectations. Everyone has their own aspirations, whether it be as an individual or team collective, organised matches/races, or simply a competition with yourself; your targets will differ from your friend’s or sibling’s. Failure to achieve these expectations can lead to poor mental health, eating disorders, burnout, low self-esteem and ostracisation from a previous group of team-related friends, all of which could end participation in that sport.

This is where your coach, PT or role as a parent is key. Taking the positives from the situation and responding in a proactive manner to reduce the chance of such a recurrence in the future. If you read the biographies of sporting icons, many have faced adversity and failure, but how they respond to these challenges makes them the successful sports person we see on big screens. This attitude can be applied well beyond sport.

Secondly, the more obvious. Physically detrimental injuries, such as accelerated wear and tear on joints, ligaments and tendons. If you have ever suffered an injury, however minor, while training for an event, match or race, you will recall how devastating this can be, both in physical impediment and psychological effect. Thankfully, most injuries are recoverable, with the correct rest and rehab (and, sometimes, intervention) allowing us to enjoy our chosen sport again.

The more insidious physical impact is something I commonly see as a doctor. The accumulation of those minor injuries, poor rehab of injured joints and, over time, the acceleration of tenosynovitis, ligamentous calcification, and osteoarthritis in ankles, knees, hips and shoulders. Obviously, the nature of these injuries is often sport specific and resolution of symptoms often requires careful assessment, analgesia, rehab and working with our local physios to ensure we minimise future deterioration and maximise functionality of any given joint.

I suspect many of you reading this will be thinking about the variety of minor bumps and knocks that you have played and trained through over the years and are now thinking about that ache that isn’t resolving. At McG Medical, I offer, among other things, joint assessments, imaging, steroid joint injections, and guidance on accessing ancillary services such as physiotherapy. If you would like more information on our services or to book an appointment visit