Bans on Trans Athletes Could Doom Them to Poor Health for Their Entire Lives According to Researchers

As the debate over transgender athletes rages on, a group of physicians has weighed in. They say there is a brewing health crisis at stake that no one has considered. Here is the full story.

Heated Debate

It’s becoming a familiar scene on news broadcasts and in reports all across the United States. And you can almost smell the outrage through your phone screen.

The debate centers around transgender athletes participating in sports, especially when they want to compete with other athletes of the gender they identify with.

Transgender Women in Sports

The problem seems to be most prevalent with transgender women, where athletes who were born male are often accused of having an unfair advantage.

When one of these athletes breaks a record, wins a tournament, or sometimes just shows up, parents and media jump all over the story.

Regulations in Roughly Half of U.S. States

In response, about half of U.S. states have passed laws banning or restricting transgender athletes from participating in sports that are in line with their gender identity.

Some of those bans are limited to college or high school athletes, but some even start in kindergarten.

Health Issues to Consider

While the restrictions appeal to parents of other athletes and conservative politicians, there may be health issues at stake that no one has really considered.

A group of health researchers and pediatric sports medicine doctors recently published an opinion piece in the JAMA Pediatrics journal that sheds new light on the debate over trans athletes.

There is a fundamental concern for children that is not being addressed in these cases, say the doctors.

The Importance of Physical Activity

The paper stresses that physical activity is important to the mental health and educational outcomes of school-age kids. They point to several studies to support their claims.

They say being active even helps kids stay in school, lowers the risk for disease, and makes unwanted pregnancy less likely.

The reverse is true, too, say the researchers. Children who are less active tend to be at a higher risk for all of those maladies, especially for poor physical and mental health.

Trans Students Are Already “At Risk”

Given all the evidence and the mounting backlash against young transgender athletes, pediatric researchers have a warning for society.

In particular, the group says that bans on transgender sports participation could lead to the “lasting deterioration of the physical and mental health of this at-risk population.”

The paper also points out that trans athletes, and trans students in general, already fall into that “at-risk” category, even without the bans.

Researchers Say Trans Students Lack a Place to Belong

In general, trans youth participate in sports at a lower rate than their cis counterparts, the paper says. They cite social pressure and the lack of locker room privacy as major reasons for that.

That already puts trans kids at a disadvantage when it comes to getting the physical activity they need. The restrictions on athletic participation only compound the troubles.

Alexander Sin, a researcher in sports medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and one of the paper’s co-authors, says sports also offers a chance for trans youth to find a place they belong.

“Does It Matter Who Gets a Medal?”

“Is it that we have more kids playing and allow kids to play, or does it matter who gets a medal at a third-grade competition?” Sin asks.

At this point, it probably still depends on who you ask. And there could be health consequences for the kids who have to live by the answer.

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