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Youth Sports Linked to Lower Levels of Depression, but Let’s Talk About What That Means

By Heidi Stevens, Chicago Tribune, 04/02/19, 12:00PM CDT

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What happens on the field or mat or court or wherever they compete is about one-quarter of the experience.

There’s new research suggesting youth sports serve as an anti-depressant of sorts. The study, from Washington University in St. Louis, found that boys and girls who participate in team sports had larger hippocampal volumes, which plays a role in memory and response to stress. Adult depression, the study notes, is associated with shrinkage of the brain’s hippocampus. 

The findings, which will be released in an upcoming issue of the journal Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, even link structured sports participation to less depression in boys ages 9 to 11. (For girls, sports involvement was linked to higher hippocampal volume but not lower depression, which researchers said might mean different factors contribute to depression in girls than in boys.)