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Recently I have been asked to consider the idea that sports might become an addiction. This notion is not new in this field. There are debates in the field of addiction which seem to identify similarities with other forms of addictions. Some strands of research have suggested that in extreme cases, sport athletes may exhibit similar levels of obsessions, compulsions and dysfunctions akin to other situations involving addictions. In this blog I shall try to see this idea further. I will try to look into the various facets of this debate to become more lucid on the matter. What I consider here is not addictions which take place within a sports environment, such as doping. What I look at today is the possibility of the sport being an actual addiction. I should warn you, my consideration is long but I am astounded at how complex this conversation proved to be.

The Health Debate

The first argument that comes to mind is actually a counterargument to this idea. The notion of sport being an addiction essentially implies that too much exercise is bad. Like many others, I am familiar with the saying that “too much of everything is bad”, but this term seems to conflict with some of the promotions by various health professionals. In a society afflicted by diseases like diabetes and obesity, the health sector has been long encouraging for a more active society. The World Health Organisation recommends that adults between the ages of 18 – 64 years should perform a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity throughout a 7 day period. For greater health benefits, the recommended threshold is recommended to increase to 300 minutes in the same period. Doctors, even, often advise their patients to be more active as a means to manage their ailments. Research in psychiatry also positively links improvement in wellbeing in a person suffering from depression and sports. As we accept that sport promotes salient health benefits, the position that sports can have a negative connotation to addictions becomes a bit strange at best.

 

– Steve Libreri is a social worker and parent coach within Willingness.  He offers parent coaching and social work sessions.  He can be contacted on steve@willingness.com.mt