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Wrestling | Healthy Sport Index | Aspen Institute Sports and Society Program

7th

out of 10

Wrestling

Boys

Wrestling is a sport that involves hand-to-hand combat with quick bursts of power and energy, and it requires strength, flexibility, lifting ability, and leverage. Recommended complementary/alternate sports for wrestlers include soccer, cross country and swimming.

Rankings in orange circles compare this sport with nine other sports offered for this gender before customization – meaning each of the three health categories is given an equal one-third weighting. The ranking is comprised of data collected or developed from various sources (75% of score) and expert opinion (25% of score). The healthiest sports in each of the three categories – physical activity, safety and psychosocial benefits – and in each data measurement are ranked No. 1. Note: Some sports did not have significant differences between each other in the data. Learn more about our methodology.

4th

out of 10

Physical Activity

Expert Opinion Rank: 8th Out of 10

Key Characteristics: Wrestling physical activity at practices ranks fourth among the 10 boys sports studied by North Carolina State University. Wrestlers have 55.1 percent vigorous activity; the 10 boys sports average 48.5 percent. Forty-six percent of wrestling practice time focuses on skills compared to 29 percent on fitness.

1 North Carolina State University research observing high school athletes in North Carolina, 2017-18.

8th

out of 10

Safety

22.7

Injury Rate2

(8th out of 10)

15.2%

Injury Time/Loss3

(9th out of 10)

0.48

Catastrophic Rate4

(8th out of 10)

8.3%

Injuries Requiring Surgery5

(10th out of 10)

3.8

Concussion Rate6

(8th out of 10)

Expert Opinion Rank: 9th Out of 10

Key Characteristics: Wrestling has the third-worst injury rate among boys sports, according to the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study. The most common injuries are to the head/face, shoulder and knee. Wrestling has the highest percentage of injuries requiring surgery among all 20 sports (both genders) evaluated by Healthy Sport Index.

2 Injury rate per 10,000 exposures, National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, 2016-17.
3 Percentage of all injuries resulting in greater than three weeks of time loss from the sport, National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, 2016-17.
4 Non-fatal catastrophic injury/illness rate per 100,000 exposures, National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, 1982-2016.
5 Percentage of all injuries requiring surgery, National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, 2016-17.
6 Concussion rate per 10,000 exposures, National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, 2016-17.

6th

out of 10

Psychosocial

Aspen Psychosocial Survey7

3.605

Personal Social Skills

(4th out of 10)

2.692

Cognitive Skills

(5th out of 10)

3.721

Goal-Setting

(1st out of 10)

3.789

Initiative

(5th out of 10)

3.705

Health

(4th out of 10)

1.385

Negative Experiences

(5th out of 10)

Substance Abuse

Cigarette Use8
22.3%

(9th out of 10)

Binge Drinking9
35.4%

(9th out of 10)

Marijuana Use10
30.8%

(8th out of 10)

Academic Achievement

Cut Class11
34.6%

(9th out of 10)

A/A- Student12
24.3%

(10th out of 10)

Graduate From College13
50.7%

(10th out of 10)

Psychological health14

4.11

Self-Esteem

(10th out of 10)

2.35

Fatalism

(10th out of 10)

3.71

Self-Efficacy

(9th out of 10)

2.62

Loneliness

(9th out of 10)

2.16

Self-Derogation

(10th out of 10)

4.01

Social Support

(T-9th out of 10)

Expert Opinion Rank: 9th Out of 10

Key Characteristics: Wrestling rates third among the 10 boys sports in the Aspen Institute/University of Texas psychosocial survey, not too far behind No. 1 football. Goal setting is a strength for wrestling. Wrestling has a high number of athletes using cigarettes and marijuana and involved in binge drinking, according to Women’s Sports Foundation data.

7 Aspen Institute/University of Texas psychosocial benefits survey of high school athletes nationally, 2018. Scoring ranges from 1-4, with 4 being the best except for the Negative Experiences category.

8 Percentage of high school seniors in the sport smoking cigarettes in the past 30 days. Data from Monitoring the Future Study (2010-15) and analyzed by Women’s Sports Foundation in Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters.

9 Percentage of high school seniors in the sport binge drinking alcohol in the past two weeks. Data from Monitoring the Future Study (2010-15) and analyzed by Women’s Sports Foundation in Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters.

10 Percentage of high school seniors in the sport using marijuana in the past 30 days. Data from Monitoring the Future Study (2010-15) and analyzed by Women’s Sports Foundation in Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters.

11 Percentage of high school seniors in the sport who cut class for a full day in the past month. Data from Monitoring the Future Study (2010-15) and analyzed by Women’s Sports Foundation in Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters.

12 Percentage of high school seniors in the sport who have an average grade of an A or A-. Data from Monitoring the Future Study (2010-15) and analyzed by Women’s Sports Foundation in Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters.

13 Percentage of high school seniors in the sport who expect to graduate from a four-year college. Data from Monitoring the Future Study (2010-15) and analyzed by Women’s Sports Foundation in Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters.

14 Average scores of high school seniors in the sport in psychological health report card. Data for these six categories came from Monitoring the Future Study (2010-15) and analyzed by Women’s Sports Foundation in Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters. Scoring ranges from 1-5, with 5 being the best for self-esteem, self-efficacy and social support.

Compare Tool

Select Other Boys Sports to Compare and Scroll Down

Wrestling (Boys)
Baseball (Boys)
Basketball (Boys)
Cross Country (Boys)
Football (Boys)
Lacrosse (Boys)
Soccer (Boys)
Swimming (Boys)
Tennis (Boys)
Track and Field (Boys)

Complementary Sports

Healthy Sport Index recognizes the benefits of youth engaging in more than one sport during the year, through organized or casual play. Some youth also may want or need to find alternate sports, due to interest or roster-size limitations. There are two types of benefits to sport sampling: athletic/skill development in their primary sport, and overall health. First, let’s take a look at sports that can help develop athletic/skill development.

Athletic/Skill Development

For youth whose primary sport is wrestling, USA Wrestling recommends the following complementary sports.

Other Recommended Sports/Activities for Skills

Gymnastics, Judo, Weightlifting, Yoga

Rationale: Wrestling is a technical sport, but involves hand-to-hand, one-on-one contact, and exertion of force and leverage over an opponent. Football is structured the same for most positions, but many skill positions don’t complement wrestling. Soccer is the most similar to wrestling in terms of short bursts of explosion with a general base of conditioning being required.

Not chasing an athletic scholarship or elite performance? Let’s now explore complementary sports that are less tailored to develop skills in this particular sport but can help build a well-rounded athlete for life.

Overall Health

For youth focused on this sport, the following are activities worth considering to build overall health and fitness. They are recommended by the Healthy Sport Index Advisory Group in consultation with the American College of Sports Medicine. Considerations include whether the primary sport is a team or individual sport, the amount of time the primary sport spends at practice on fitness, and options for sports that carry low-injury risks.

Other Recommended Sports/Activities for Health

Cycling, Jump Rope, Kayak, Pilates, Rock Climbing, Rowing, Triathlon, Ultimate Frisbee, Yoga

Rationale: Wrestling is an individual sport that would benefit from a companion team sport. It is primarily anaerobic in nature, so sports with endurance are favored. Injuries are more common in wrestling than most sports.

Best Practices

Tips on how to make wrestling active and safer

  1. Lose weight in a healthy way. Excessive or improper weight loss can result in various health problems, including delayed physical growth, eating disorders, depression, increased risk of infectious disease, and heat illness. Wrestlers should not lose more than 1.5 percent of their body weight each week. Keys to healthy weight management include frequent hydration before, during and after practices, and healthy recovery meals within an hour of the end of a practice.
  2. A healthy diet is important during any period of weight loss. Wrestlers should eat a variety of foods from all food groups. The diet should provide enough energy (calories) to support growth, daily physical activities, and sports activities. Once the desired weight is met, that weight should be maintained within an allowable weight range. This range should be monitored based on the athlete’s knowledge of their body’s ability to sweat off a healthy amount of water weight prior to a weight-in.
  3. Be aware and transparent about skin conditions. If a participant is suspected of having a contagious skin disease, the coach should provide written documentation from a doctor that the condition is not contagious and that the wrestler’s participation would not harm the opponent.
  4. Continue to embrace girls as wrestlers – providing females another outlet for sports. There is a major push in the high school ranks to promote girls wrestling. USA Wrestling had its first female Olympic gold medalist in 2016.
  5. Have a certified athletic trainer at all practices and competitions. This should be true for any sport, but especially one such as wrestling with so much contact. Always consult an athletic trainer and medical professional before starting a diet or weight management program.

Learn More About Best Practices
Coach’s Educational Resource Guide (USA Wrestling)

Coaching Courses (USA Wrestling)

Athlete Development Model (USA Wrestling)

Wrestling Tips (HealthyChildren.org)

Safety and Injury Prevention Video (USA Wrestling)

Stay Hydrated to Stay Competitive (USA Wrestling)

Recruiting and Coaching Women (USA Wrestling)

Nutrition and Competition Tips Video (USA Wrestling)

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)