n African Journal for Physical Health Education, Recreation and Dance - Behavioural risk factors among South African student athletes

Supplement 2
  • ISSN : 1117-4315


University sport is a professional enterprise and is seen as an effective mechanism to attract prospective students. However, along with this professionalism of sport among university students, a growing prevalence in behavioural risk factors has been found. This study examined the prevalence of behavioural risk factors, including smoking and other tobacco use, alcohol use, drug use and nutrition (eating disorders) among college-age athletes participating in a variety of elite sports at university level. A descriptive cross-sectional study was used. Data were collected using a questionnaire distributed to 50 athletes (28 male and 22 female) aged 18-25 years who participated in first team sports at a university level. The results indicated that smoking and alcohol consumption were more prevalent among male athletes compared to female athletes (29% and 85%; 18% and 85%, respectively). Both male and female athletes adopted similar nutritional habits in terms of the number of times in a week eating fruit, consuming fried foods and consuming fizzy drinks, while the use of nutritional supplements was more common among male athletes (males: 46%; females: 9%). Behavioural risk factors were found to be the most prevalent in netball for females (20%) compared to rugby for males (16%). These results reveal potential risk factors which may have a direct influence on the performance (and health) of athletes and consequently, the overall success of sport at the university. The findings may assist both student athletes and managers/coaches alike in educating both parties on the impact of these risk factors on the athletes in terms of their performance and health and in the development of initiatives and programmes to reduce the prevalence of behavioural risk factors among the student athletes.

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