Punch-ups on the field

Samoan fullback Paul Williams has been red-carded for striking Springbok flank Heinrich Brussow in their clash in Auckland on Friday.

Shortly thereafter, replacement Springbok hooker John Smit was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on.

Check out the video of these various punch-ups on the rugby field:


What the research says

Punch-ups in sport appear to start early for sportsmen: a study revealed that teenage boys involved in contact sports are often aggressive off the field too, new research suggests.

Among US high school students in a national health survey, boys who were on the football or wrestling teams were more likely than other male students to say they'd been in a serious physical fight in the past year.

Overall, 45 percent of football players and 48 percent of wrestlers admitted to fighting, versus 38 percent of non-athletes. Boys in other sports, such as basketball and baseball, did not have a heightened rate of physical fights, study author Dr Derek A Kreager told Reuters Health.

Based on the survey responses, the connection between wrestling and aggression seemed to be largely explained by a pre-existing tendency among the wrestlers who were more likely than normal to get into fights even before they joined the sport.

With football, however, the situation was different, explained Kreager, an assistant professor of sociology and crime, law and justice at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.

Influenced by friends
An important factor, he told Reuters Health, appeared to be whether a player's circle of friends was mainly composed of other football players. When this was the case, the likelihood of fights off the field increased, Kreager found.

The findings, published in the American Sociological Review, are based on a national health survey of thousands of US high school students. Kreager focused on 6 397 male students who were surveyed twice over two years.

The survey data alone cannot point to why football - and, specifically, having football-playing friends - was related to fights off the field.

Demonstrate masculinity
However, Kreager said, "I suspect that it is because males in football groups have to demonstrate their masculinity to their friends by fighting."

It's also possible, he added, that boys with many football-playing friends more often find themselves in situations that raise the odds of fights, like parties with alcohol.

According to Kreager, the findings highlight the importance of separating contact sports from violence. Parents and coaches, he said, should not dismiss fights as a matter of "boys will be boys."

"Self-control and respect for others should be emphasised more than 'winning is everything' and 'kill the opponents' attitudes," Kreager said.

"Otherwise, it is too easy for contact-sport athletes to take the lessons learned on the field ... to off-the-field contexts."

SOURCE: American Sociological Review, October 2007. – (Reuters Health)

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