10 story lines that defined the year in sports: From the Ball family to NFL unrest

sports articles 2017

As 2017 comes to a close, so too does the year in sports.

And what a year it was.

There were historic winning streaks and inspiring championship runs, national-anthem protests and monumental trade requests, massive scandals, ascending stars, a boxing spectacle, an FBI sting and much more.

As 2018 looms, USA TODAY Sports pinpoints the 10 story lines that defined sports in 2017:

10. An offseason soap opera in the NBA

Every offseason features trades and free-agent signings, but rarely have as many stars found new homes as they did last summer — and with some drama, too. Chris Paul requested a trade and joined James Harden in Houston. Carmelo Anthony and Paul George moved to Oklahoma City. Jimmy Butler was shipped to Minnesota. And then, of course, was the upheaval in the Eastern Conference. In a ballyhooed decision,  Gordon Hayward signed with the Boston Celtics, who then nabbed Kyrie Irving in a massive trade with the rival Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving supposedly requested a trade because he wanted to escape LeBron James' shadow, but he has since declined to talk about his reasoning  for the request.

FOLLOW THE MADNESS: NCAA basketball bracket, scores, schedules, teams and more.

9. Historic streaks, from Cleveland to Storrs

The Cleveland Indians went more than three weeks without a loss , winning 22 consecutive games from Aug. 24 through Sept. 15. It was the longest winning streak in baseball history without a tie and second-longest unbeaten streak in the sport overall, behind only the New York Giants' 26-game streak in 1916. The stretch featured seven shutouts and four one-run wins.

Meanwhile, the UConn women's basketball team  saw its own historic streak come to an end after multiple years . The Huskies' 66-64 overtime loss to Mississippi State in the Final Four ended a 111-game winning streak that dated to Nov. 23, 2014 and was the longest in the history of Division I basketball. "We kind of lived a charmed life for a long time," coach Geno Auiriemma said after the loss.

8. Serena still shining

Though she only played two events early in January, 2017 was still a banner year for tennis legend Serena Williams, on and off the court. First, she beat her older sister, Venus, in the Australian Open final to claim her 23rd Grand Slam single's title, the most of any tennis player since 1968. Then, in April, she revealed that she was eight weeks pregnant when the tournament began. Williams gave birth to a baby girl , Alexis Olympia, on Sept. 1 and is scheduled to return to the court with an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

7. A stunning Super Bowl

To say the Patriots rallied from a 28-3 deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 34-28, would be accurate — and wildly incomplete. This was the first overtime game in Super Bowl history. It featured the largest comeback (25 points) in Super Bowl history. It was arguably the most compelling game in Super Bowl history. And, according to Fox , it was the second most-watched event, period, in the history of the network, with a total audience of 172 million. Yes, it was only one game in a year full of buzzer-beaters and come-from-behind thrillers. But it came on the largest stage in American sports, and defined the year unlike any other single event could.

Brennan: Sending out sports wishes for 2018 to Serena, Brady, Pyeongchang and others

Bell: The best and worst of the 2017 NFL season

FTW: 10 biggest sports and pop culture disappointments of 2017

6. The Ball family circus

Rarely has one family dominated headlines as the Balls did in 2017.  Oldest son, Lonzo, emerged as one of college basketball's stars in his only season at UCLA and was drafted No. 2 overall by the Los Angeles Lakers. His younger brother, LiAngelo, enrolled at UCLA, was arrested and suspended for shoplifting in China , left the school and recently signed a contract with a professional team in Lithuania. And the youngest Ball, LaMelo, is also headed to Lithuania , though he only recently turned 16, after he was pulled out of a California high school and briefly homeschooled. 

And then there's the family's braggadocious patriarch, LaVar. He outrageously claimed that he could beat Michael Jordan in a game of one-on-one . He went on a sexist rant after demanding a female referee be replaced during an AAU game. And, most recently, he baited President Donald Trump into a Twitter spat . Through it all, LaVar became a lightning rod of criticism and a constant source of eye rolls — but he got America's attention.

5. Dark Olympic clouds

On the heels of 2016 reporting by  The Indianapolis Star ,  USA Gymnastics found itself at the heart of one of the most disturbing stories of 2017. Former team doctor Larry Nassar was accused of sexual abuse by more than 150 women — including three members of the Fierce Five  — and was sentenced to serve 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges. Steve Penny, the embattled president of USA Gymnastics, resigned . And last week, McKayla Maroney filed a lawsuit alleging she was paid to not publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse, which she says was an attempt by USA Gymnastics to "allow Nassar to quietly leave USAG; further silencing his victims."

Meanwhile, Russia faced a wave of sanctions from the International Olympic Committee after widespread violations of anti-doping rules. Forty-three Russian athletes have been sanctioned , resulting in the loss of 13 medals at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi and several lifetime bans. The country has also been barred from competing in the February Winter Games in Pyeongchang. Russians will be able to compete as neutral athletes , however.

4. The spectacle of Mayweather-McGregor

The fight itself was better than many expected, with MMA fighter Conor McGregor holding his own during his first foray into boxing before  losing to Floyd Mayweather in a 10th-round TKO . It generated a massive payout and was one of the most publicized bouts in years. But the real story was  the circus surrounding the fight  in the weeks and months leading up to it — and in a few months afterward.

There were roughly five months of public posturing from both sides about whether the fight would even take place, then a string of verbal jabs, some of which had racial undertones . And the talking didn't stop after they left the ring. McGregor has since said there's "no doubt" he would win a rematch , while Mayweather has claimed he could make $1 billion for three or four fights, including one against McGregor, in the octagon.

3. The FBI stings college basketball

In news that shook the world of college sports, four assistant basketball coaches were indicted in a fraud and corruption scheme after a lengthy investigation by the FBI. Adidas, sports agent Christian Dawkins and Louisville were among the several entities swept up in the scandal, which resulted in the firing of longtime coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich , but the effects were (and still are) felt throughout college basketball . Like many 2017 storylines, this one will carry over in 2018, as several lawsuits remain pending and the government continues submitting evidence for its case.

2. #HoustonStrong

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey , which caused nearly $200 billion in damage and displaced  thousands of residents, the Houston Astros gave their city a reason to celebrate . Led by American League MVP Jose Altuve , they slipped past the Los Angeles Dodgers in one of the most thrilling World Series in recent years  to win their first title in franchise history.

The city also received a boost through the efforts of Houston Texans linebacker J.J. Watt . Though Watt  missed most of the season due to injury , his impact off the field was profound: He raised more than $37 million for hurricane relief efforts, 185 times his initial goal of $200,000.

1. Unrest in the NFL

When President Donald Trump used an expletive at a September rally to describe NFL players who protest during the national anthem, he turned an already massive sports story into the story of the year. Trump's comments prompted a major backlash from players (and, in some cases, owners) that rippled across the league and the nation at large. While Trump has continued to blast the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell on Twitter, one notable sponsor blamed the protests for declining profits , and a group of players has since negotiated a fundraising agreement with the league , with a focus on social justice issues. 

Meanwhile, quarterback Colin Kaepernick — who started the protest in 2016 to bring attention to racial inequality and police brutality — didn't play in 2017. Kaepernick became a free agent in March, and in October, he  filed a collusion grievance against NFL owners . Though he's largely remained out of the public eye over the past year, Kaepernick remains a key figure in the movement and has donated at least $900,000 to social-justice causes .

Others receiving votes: 

  • South Carolina dominates the Final Four, with the women winning the national title and the men making a surprise run
  • Dale Earnhart Jr.'s retirement
  • Clemson's national championship win over Alabama, and news of their subsequent Sugar Bowl rematch
  • Tiger Woods' DUI and return
  • Russell Westbrook's historic season
  • Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal split the men's Grand Slam singles titles
  • The Ezekiel Elliott investigation, battle with NFL and six-game suspension 
  • O.J. Simpson's release from prison
  • Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani find new homes
  • U.S. soccer fails to qualify for the 2018 World Cup
  • Las Vegas gets a professional franchise, with another on the way

PHOTOS: Best sports moments of 2017

2017 in review: 25 stories that shaped the sporting year

After another eventful 12 months in the sports industry, sportspro writers reflect on 25 tales of disruption, corruption and upheaval that made 2017 a year to remember..

sports articles 2017

LA and Paris get their Games amid IOC bid struggles

On the one hand, the next three summer editions of the Olympic Games will be held in a diverse trio of world class cities. On the other, every bidder to reach the finish line for the 2024 event was rewarded with a prize of their own.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) parked the question of dwindling interest in its biggest event in 2017 by creating what president Thomas Bach called a “win-win-win situation” , engineering a tripartite deal to make third-time hosts of Paris in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028.

sports articles 2017

Now, after a challenging build-up to PyeongChang 2018 and anaemic interest in the 2022 event that went to Beijing, thoughts turn to rejuvenating the Winter Olympics. The IOC knows how damaging stories of Sochi’s freewheeling budget were to the appetite for the ice and snow event and is trumpeting a more collaborative bid process.

Sion is the closest to showing its hand for 2026 but there are no candidates yet; former host Innsbruck is already precluded by an October referendum . EC   

  • Passing on the torch: Where does the Olympic Games go now?

Digital disruption in sports media continues

If this business did not know it already, it does now: digital technology is changing sport from its very centre. In everything from the distribution of broadcast and video content to the way communities build around leagues and teams, more and more of the industry’s founding certainties are being challenged.

sports articles 2017

With specialist platforms like DAZN in play and the tech giants circling, other US media heavyweights followed Disney’s lead. Turner and NBC will now pool the technical resources of their iStreamPlanet and Playmaker Media services, while many of the big networks also announced experimental pricing plans for selected content.

Across the Atlantic, Discovery unveiled plans to build its Olympic coverage around the now BAMTECH-powered Eurosport Player. UK market leader Sky Sports, meanwhile, produced its own response to the challenges of consumption trends with a new set of vertical, single-sport and single-subscription channels built around the likes of the Premier League, cricket and golf. EC

  • ‘Netflix of sports’ – realistic proposition or unworkable pipe dream?

Formula One begins Liberty era

For all its apparent struggles over the past decade or so, Formula One remains a bona fide top-tier sport; one of the few global series which not only transcends geographical boundaries but cultural ones, possessing genuine mainstream crossover appeal. Not many sporting properties would change hands for a fee in excess of US$8 billion, as Formula One did at the beginning of 2017 when Liberty Media finally completed its prolonged purchase .

The 40-year reign of Bernie Ecclestone – a man credited in equal measure with driving the sport forward and, in his later years, acting as a human handbrake – came to an end. Almost immediately, Liberty went about liberating Formula One.

sports articles 2017

New races were announced, too, with the Malaysian Grand Prix making way for the return of France and Germany in an expanded calendar for 2018 . Others were mooted for inclusion further down the line, with street circuits in Copenhagen and Amsterdam rumoured, while significant growth in China and the potential for additional stages there remain high up Liberty’s agenda.

A new logo followed at the end of a season in which Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton claimed a fourth world title. Bratches’ broadcast background will eventually come to bear, too, with the likely introduction of a dedicated global OTT streaming platform in 2018 – a significant indicator of the digitally led, multimedia future Liberty has envisioned for motorsport’s elite series. AN

  • Talking Liberty: Sean Bratches on Formula One’s new era

IAAF looks to future as Bolt retires

Usain Bolt would have played out the fairytale farewell thousands of times in his head, but none of those envisaged scenarios would have ended with him losing his 100m world title to the twice-banned Justin Gatlin at the scene of his 2012 Olympic triumph. The Jamaican sprint king’s final individual race was a reminder that in sport – and particularly athletics – the crowd favourite doesn’t always win and victory is sometimes impure.

sports articles 2017

But for all that, London 2017 and its record-breaking attendances gave athletics a kiss of life. Having spent the majority of his tenure trying to combat issues surrounding corruption and doping, Coe is now calling for a major overhaul of the sport. Insisting that “nothing is off the table”, the 61-year-old is considering NFL-style drafts, athlete auctions, franchises and pop-up tracks among a host of other radical proposals to modernise athletics.

The summer of 2017 might have seen one of sport’s greatest ever entertainers take his final bow, but with Bolt’s departure it seems that the race for athletics to remain relevant has only just begun. SC

  • Athletics after Usain: An interview with Ricky Simms

European soccer transfer market goes wild

After 2016’s transfer splurges, it seemed soccer’s spending bubble must surely burst – but 2017 was a summer of record-smashing financial exuberance as new TV deals came on stream and generous benefactors returned to the market.

In Europe, Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain met the €222 million (US$259 million) buyout clause in Brazilian star Neymar’s contract at Barcelona. The deal was a statement of intent by the Qatari owners of the recently deposed French champions, easily surpassing Paul Pogba’s world record US$116 million move from Juventus back to Premier League outfit Manchester United in 2016. Teenage sensation Kylian Mbappé joined Neymar and company from Monaco, with the clubs brokering a one-year loan with a permanent transfer worth up to a reported €180 million (US$214.7 million) to come in 2018.

sports articles 2017

Javier Tebas, president of Spain’s La Liga, was among those to protest this inflated outlay, demanding an inquiry by European confederation Uefa into breaches by PSG and City of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules, which limit clubs from spending more than they earn on soccer activities. Uefa rejected calls to look into City’s spending, but investigations into PSG are ongoing.

With Tebas accusing the sides of using “state aid”, creating an “inflationary spiral harmful to European competitions and the footballing industry” – and colourfully telling September’s Soccerex Global Convention that PSG and Neymar had been caught “peeing in the swimming pool” – it remains to be seen whether action will be needed or taken to deal with ‘financial doping’. Otherwise, with broadcast revenues expected to rise further, soccer’s spending seems set to carry on unchecked.  EH

Industry heavyweights jostle for esports position

At the end of 2016, 43 million viewers tuned in to watch the finale of a sports series being staged in Chicago, USA. It wasn’t soccer or basketball, nor was it football or baseball. It was the League of Legends World Championship, an annual esports competition with a US$1 million cash prize.

Love it or loathe it, esports is making its way into the mainstream, and 2017 saw a number of sports industry heavyweights make their move. From the National Football League (NFL), the New England Patriots’ billionaire owner Robert Kraft and Stan Kroenke of the Los Angeles Rams both bought franchises in Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League , a new city-based competition due to launch next year.

sports articles 2017

Soccer clubs across Europe continued to sign esports players to their books, while Formula One and Formula E headed the list of motorsport series creating video game competitions.

Drone racing, meanwhile, continues to pick up pace. The Drone Racing League received a US$20 million boost ahead of its debut season, with investors including UK broadcaster Sky, Formula One owner Liberty Media, and wrestling promotion WWE. The New York-based startup also locked in Allianz as a title sponsor .

It might be some time before video games and drones are accepted the traditional sports sphere, but 2017 hinted that major investors are already taking notice. SC   

  • ‘There is an appetite for this’: What to expect from the NBA 2K League

Fifa expands World Cup as Uefa launches Nations League

When Gianni Infantino ran for the Fifa presidency in 2016, he vowed to create more opportunities for World Cup qualification. He delivered on that promise in January this year, when soccer’s global governing body confirmed that the flagship international tournament would be expanded from 32 teams to 48 as of 2026. The announcement was met by mixed reviews, with fears emerging that it might cheapen the achievement of qualification, rendering the process too easily earned and consequently less of a treasured privilege.

sports articles 2017

In truth, though, international soccer has required rejuvenating for some time now and, in September, European confederation Uefa also launched its new Nations League tournament, which is set to debut in 2018. The competition’s promotion and relegation format is intended to create more competitive national team matches, and Uefa will be hoping that it’s latest innovation can subdue the increasing levels of apathy that greet the international breaks during Europe’s domestic soccer season.    

With news now emerging that Fifa and Uefa have entered talks about taking the competition global, and Concacaf due to launch its own League of Nations contest in North and Central America next September, this is certainly a space that needs to be watched. SC

  • Concacaf president Victor Montagliani on corruption, common purpose, and Donald Trump

America’s franchise landscape shifts again

It was another year of change in the landscape of American sport, with several major league franchises coming under new ownership or relocating to new markets.

No sooner had the San Diego Chargers confirmed plans to bolt to Los Angeles in January than the National Football League (NFL) found itself approving its third contentious franchise relocation in less than 14 months. In March, the want-away Oakland Raiders secured their long-rumoured yet fiercely opposed move to Las Vegas – a move motivated by the promise of an unprecedented US$750 million public contribution towards a new US$1.7 billion stadium to be built close to the city’s casino-laden Strip.

With the Raiders facing the prospect of at least two ‘lame duck’ seasons in Oakland before setting up shop in Sin City in 2020, two franchise transactions in the National Basketball Association (NBA) further underlined the continued appeal of the booming basketball business. In Houston, local restaurateur Tilman Fertitta forked out an NBA-record US$2.2 billion to acquire the Rockets in September, while in Brooklyn Alibaba co-founder Joseph Tsai’s purchase of a 49 per cent stake in the Nets valued the loss-making franchise at some US$2.3 billion.

sports articles 2017

Elsewhere, in what was perhaps the messiest franchise transaction in recent memory Major League Baseball (MLB) finally approved the sale of the Miami Marlins to a group led by New York businessman Bruce Sherman and Yankees great Derek Jeter. The league’s approval of the US$1.2 billion buyout in late September brought an end to a protracted negotiating process that dragged on throughout the year, clouded by a succession of false dawns and failed bids from multiple interested parties. ML

Joshua emerges as heavyweights resume centre stage

If there was one night in the year that came closest to capturing all of the glory that sport can sometimes promise, it was at London’s Wembley Stadium late in April.

In one corner of a boxing ring at the home of English soccer stood Anthony Joshua, a local boy restored from adolescent misdemeanour to Olympic gold, powerful and finely honed but delivered way ahead of schedule to the defining moment of his young career. In the other stood Wladimir Klitschko, long-time custodian and emblem of a stagnant heavyweight division, hoping to serve reminder of his relevance at the age of 41.

sports articles 2017

It was a contest that confirmed Joshua as a superstar and made fans dare to dream that heavyweight boxing could be great again. Reality has since settled in: beyond fellow knockout artist Deontay Wilder of the US and the troubled, inactive Fury, there are few compelling opponents for Joshua’s team and promoter Eddie Hearn to line up as they plan a global assault. There will be nights, too, like the one that yielded a laboured win over late substitute Carlos Takam in October.

Still, between the presence of a marketing magnet among the big men and a growing appreciation of the value of proper match-ups, fight fans have cause to be excited again. EC

  • Heavyweights: Behind the scenes at Joshua v Klitschko

Cycling’s leadership tussle ends in Cookson’s departure

Brian Cookson, professional cycling’s great reformer, became president of the International Cycling Union (UCI) in 2013 when he ousted Pat McQuaid. His early years in the role were dedicated to restoring the sport’s image and coincided with the exposure of the once-revered American cyclist Lance Armstrong’s history of systematic doping.

To the outside Cookson appeared to be a transparent, popular leader of the cycling’s governing body and the overriding favourite to be re-elected at the UCI Congress in Bergen, Norway, on 21st September.   

sports articles 2017

Lappartient had been branded “a political machine” by French journalist Jean-François Quénethas, having never lost an election of any kind, and he duly franked the form in a convincing victory. The incumbent Cookson took just eight votes to his opponent’s 37 .

France is ostensibly the spiritual home of cycling – particularly on the road – and Lappartient becomes his nation’s third president of the UCI; the first to hold the position since 1957. While a magnanimous Cookson believes that he can “depart with head held high”, some observers attributed his loss to an anti-British sentiment within the organisation.

The new president has since spoken of banning corticosteroids, including those taken on a therapeutic use exemption (TUE), from the beginning of 2019, as well as cutting road teams to six riders per team. Cookson, meanwhile, has announced plans for a team on the Women’s WorldTour. GD

  • David Lappartient: the UCI’s new leader of the peloton

Formula E to the fore as motorsport grid is rewired

2017 saw another drive for the world’s first all-electric motorsport series, and while Formula E faces a lengthy battle to rival Formula One’s global fanbase, the effort to attract leading automotive brands appears to be a more straightforward one. Reigning Formula One world champion Mercedes’ decision to follow German rivals Audi and BMW on to the grid – to be followed by Porsche and Nissan – only served to strengthen the notion that Formula E is weaving a permanent place for itself in motorsport’s tapestry.

The series also introduced an expanded 14-race calendar for 2017/18, featuring debuts for Chile’s Santiago, São Paulo in Brazil and the Italian capital of Rome, while the addition of a Zurich ePrix is set to return motorsport to Switzerland for the first time in 60 years.

sports articles 2017

And what Nascar would give to have the same trajectory right now. The arrival of Cup Series title sponsor Monster Energy was coupled with another slate of format and rule changes intended to arrest the series’ big skid but, according to Sports Media Watch, 22 of this year’s 26 top-tier races declined in ratings and viewership.

Nascar might keep its official attendance figures under wraps, but with the visual impact of empty seats unnerving broadcasters and potential sponsors, it appears that the stock of North America’s pre-eminent racing series only continues to slide. SC

  • Supporting innovation: James Barclay on the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy

Major leagues go big in Las Vegas

After years on the periphery – years marked by stigma around its gambling DNA and historical links to the mob, both of which had fuelled persistent fears of possible impropriety – Las Vegas finally cemented its place on the global team sports map in 2017.

With a metro area of more than 2.2 million inhabitants, the neon-encrusted desert metropolis had been notable in being the largest American city without a major professional sports franchise. Besides the odd flirtation with football and regular helpings of boxing, MMA, motor racing and college sports, the city of Las Vegas had long remained off the cards for North America’s preeminent leagues.

sports articles 2017

In August, the city landed its first-ever professional soccer team, Las Vegas Lights FC, who will join the second-tier United Soccer League (USL) next year. In October, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) approved the relocation of its San Antonio Stars franchise to Vegas for 2018, while the impending arrival of pro football in the form of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders will add another big-ticket draw to this once-untouchable city’s rapidly maturing sports scene. ML

  • The Long Read: Welcome to Las Vegas, a sure bet for major league sport

Tech giants get serious about sport

2017 saw the tech giants make their opening moves in the sports rights arena. In April, ecommerce giant Amazon won the rights to show the NFL's ten-game Thursday Night Football package on its Prime Video service in a deal worth US$50 million.

Amazon then outbid Sky , picking up the UK rights to show exclusive coverage of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) World Tour for a reported UK£10 million (US$13.2 million) per year. It also showed the inaugural ATP Next Gen Finals around the world in November.

sports articles 2017

Away from live rights, it is taking on original content rival Netflix in the race for documentaries linked to major teams and leagues, and has also made further moves into sport by way of  ticketing and cloud-computing .

Facebook, meanwhile, began rolling out its new ‘Watch’ tab through the year, featuring a variety of sports content produced by Facebook partners rolled out in the US. Then, in September, the social media behemoth revealed how much it was willing to pay for sports content after it posted the second-highest bid, at US$610 million, for the local digital rights to five years of Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket.

With considerable financial arsenals to deploy, both Facebook and Amazon have been linked to bids for next cycle of rights to English soccer’s Premier League. Neither Facebook nor Amazon have ruled themselves out, though many analysts believe talk of a significant entry to be premature. EH

  • Live and direct: A look across the OTT landscape

Women’s team sport makes strides

After seeds had been planted in 2015 and 2016, women’s team sport has been bearing commercial fruit in the past year – not least over a summer of growing media attention in Europe.

Three major international tournaments dominated the agenda, each providing evidence of impressively robust interest. In the UK, England’s women won the Cricket World Cup on home soil, beating India in the final at a sold-out Lord’s Cricket Ground and monopolising national front pages.

sports articles 2017

In soccer, the Uefa Women’s European Championship set TV viewership records across the continent. Back in the UK, England’s Lionesses were watched by four million viewers as they fell to hosts and eventual champions the Netherlands in the semi-final – free-to-air Channel 4’s biggest audience of the year at that stage and the biggest ever for women’s soccer in the country. The final pulled in an 83 per cent audience share on Dutch television, with 4.1 million domestic viewers forming part of a live global audience of over 13 million.

Not to be outdone, the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup final was the first to be shown live on free-to-air TV in a prime time slot in the UK. The game netted national record viewing figures for a women’s rugby match, with a peak audience on ITV of 2.6 million for England’s defeat to New Zealand. 3.2 million French viewers watched their team play England in the semi-finals.

There is some way to go but the success of women’s sports teams, and investment in them, is helping break the cycle of low media exposure and providing real opportunities for the future. EH

  • Clare Connor on English cricket’s triumph and the future of women’s sport

Not even Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, could have foreseen the furore sparked by his refusal to stand during pre-game renditions of the American national anthem. What started in 2016 as one athlete’s stand against police brutality and racial inequality quickly grew into an entire movement, one that spread from the National Football League (NFL) to other sports and became one of the year’s most contentious and talked-about political issues.

In the opening week of the 2017 season, several NFL players ‘took a knee’ in solidarity with Kaepernick and his cause. When US president Donald Trump waded into the issue, describing protesting players as “sons of bitches” and calling for their dismissal in repeated Twitter tirades, the story became a debate not about social injustice, but a racially charged, partisan argument about respect for America’s heritage and its military, the constitutional right to one’s freedom of expression, and the role of the modern athlete.

sports articles 2017

The league’s unity, however, was short-lived. With Kaepernick still unemployed and the anthem protests starting to hurt business, players and owners held emergency meetings. In November, a resolution of sorts came when the NFL agreed to donate nearly US$90 million to social justice causes supported by players, though it is already clear the gesture has failed to appease the activists. ML

  • So much winning: Donald Trump and the sports industry

Icarus rises from Russian doping row

The public perception of doping is that it’s a matter of individual athletes knowingly cheating to gain an advantage in a sporting event; the reality may be of systematised, even state-backed deception whose ramifications have a major political dimension and may even threaten lives.

sports articles 2017

The film follows Fogel’s burgeoning relationship with Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Moscow anti-doping laboratory director whose testimony has lent such strong foundations to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) McLaren Report , which in 2016 brought forth revelations of a state-sponsored programme of doping Russian athletes.

Fogel brings the story back into public discourse and puts a human spin on the crisis, underlining just how much of a personal risk Rodchenkov has taken in an era where the Russian government treats attacks on its supremacy with extreme prejudice.

Russian officials continue to deny any wrongdoing beyond the actions of rogue individuals, including Rodchenko; WADA continues to deny the country’s Rusada agency a clean slate. As SportsPro went to press, the IOC executive board took Rodchenkov’s side: finally losing patience and banning the Russian Olympic Committee from PyeongChang 2018.

Reports in the UK’s Daily Mail have also indicated that Russia’s soccer team may yet be implicated ahead of the 2018 Fifa World Cup. The flames of suspicion will burn for some time yet. EC

  • Sir Craig Reedie on Russia’s Olympic ban and the fight against doping

Tennis sows seeds of change

2017 will go down as a year of progress in tennis, even if it was the return to prominence of the old guard – and the return to action of the suspended Maria Sharapova – that dominated headlines on the court.

In the men’s game, the year’s four Grand Slams were split equally between the evergreen duo of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, while on the women’s tour Venus Williams led the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) money list at the ripe old age of 37, earning more than US$5 million despite not winning a title all year. Other, less heralded female stars had their moments, too, albeit in the absence of a pregnant Serena Williams.

sports articles 2017

The men’s series also launched the ATP Next Gen Finals for top players under 21, experimenting with a raft of rule and presentation changes, while in an effort to boost participation among big-name stars, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) confirmed plans for a World Cup of Tennis  and a shortened format for its venerable yet ailing Davis Cup competition.

Coincidentally or not, news of those latter changes came shortly after September’s Laver Cup in Prague had offered a glimpse into the future of tennis presentation. Pitting Team Europe against Team World in tennis’s answer to golf’s Ryder Cup, the all-new made-for-TV tournament, fronted by Federer and a supporting cast of past and present stars, was staged to rave reviews, bringing much-needed energy and entertainment to a sport that has been otherwise slow to innovate.

Whether the event – or the sport of tennis, for that matter – can thrive beyond today’s golden generation remains to be seen, but those in the game are doing nothing if not trying. ML

  • Switching pitch: the rise of the boutique tennis agency

MMA’s battle for Asia heats up

Between the rise of the UFC and the more recent growth of Asia’s ONE Championship, something of a duopoly has developed in the global business of mixed martial arts. This year, however, the planet’s two largest MMA promotions demonstrated that amicable co-existence is never a given in the fight game. Throughout the summer, the struggle to win the hearts and minds of Asia’s burgeoning MMA fanbase became a tussle of two pugnacious PR machines.

June’s UFC Fight Night 111, staged in ONE’s backyard of Singapore, saw the Las Vegas-based promotion throw its first event in Asia since November 2015. The accompanying fanfare included a UFC-commissioned study that just so happened to declare the American series ‘the leading provider of MMA TV content across Asia’, surpassing all local and regional promotions in terms of hours viewed. New Asian broadcast agreements swiftly followed and soon after the UFC, under new ownership and on the front foot once again, announced plans to debut in mainland China in November.

sports articles 2017

Amid talk of potential cross-promotional bouts in future, ONE founder and chairman Chatri Sityodtong chided the UFC’s brand of “distasteful”, ego-driven bravado, arguing that the promotion’s trash-talking protagonists represented the antithesis of his more humble cohort of “true” martial artists.

Whatever happens next, the scene has been set for more showdowns to come. ML

  • Selling a champion: the making of MMA star Angela Lee

Rio 2016 fallout claims more victims

The closing curtain on the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro fell on a country in economic and political turmoil, in the grip of its most severe recession in a century, and facing a public security crisis, unpaid debts, spurned Olympic legacy promises and growing accusations of corruption in relation to construction projects for the event.

Some estimates put the spend on the Games through public and private financing close to US$20 billion, with creditors still reportedly owed millions by the local organising committee, and with Olympic venues left empty and in disrepair. The absence of legacy planning for the venues was the focus of an investigation led by federal prosecutor Leandro Mitidieri, who, at a public hearing in May, called the venues “white elephants” needing to be turned into “something usable”.

sports articles 2017

Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB) president and Rio 2016 head Carlos Nuzman was arrested and accused of arranging more than US$2 million in bribes to Lamine Diack, a former International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, in order to win hosting rights for Rio for the 2016 event.

In another year dogged by revelations of corruption across sport, the need for big changes in the governing processes of key bodies has never been more urgent, with demands for transparency and accountability rising. EH

  • The Rio Olympics: one year on

IPL and ECB deals remake cricket’s broadcast picture

In September, cricket’s Indian Premier League (IPL) went to the TV market for the first time since signing a founding ten-year deal with Sony Pictures India all the way back in 2008. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which owns and operates the six-week T20 juggernaut, secured US$2.55 billion from Star Sports for the next five years, more than doubling its money on a new contract which runs for half the length of its predecessor.

But the truly telling elements lay in the background. There was the subplot of a US$610 million bid from Facebook for local digital rights, an unprecedented play from the social media monolith. Then there was the subtext: for the first time, a media rights deal in domestic cricket is worth more per match than any in the international game.

sports articles 2017

In the UK, the growing importance placed on a robust, future-facing domestic offering was underlined by the new T20 league , still unnamed, that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has inked into its schedule from 2020 onwards.

The eight-team competition will fit over the top of England’s historic 18-county structure, and was central to the ECB’s own new proposal to broadcasters – which delivered a UK£1.1 billion, five-year deal between existing pay-TV partner Sky Sports and the publicly funded BBC, bringing live English cricket back to free-to-air TV at home for the first time since 2005. EC

  • Opening up: ECB chief executive Tom Harrison on cricket’s broadcast evolution

PyeongChang 2018 struggles to capture imagination

The potential participation of National Hockey League (NHL) players is regularly one of the key talking points ahead of a Winter Olympic Games. The biggest names in winter sport compete in North America’s premier ice hockey league, and their presence is seen as a significant boost to the visibility of any Games.

As it has turned out, the stars of the NHL will not be present in PyeongChang , after the IOC refused to sanction payments covering the league’s costs. But the issue has been relegated to a footnote in the storied build-up to 2018’s biggest multi-sport event, as global politics have overshadowed comparatively minor squabbles between sporting bodies.

sports articles 2017

As of the end of November – just over two months out from the main event – only a third of tickets had been bought, with the Paralympics struggling even more, having reportedly shifted around five per cent of the total allocation.

If Park’s impeachment hadn’t generated a difficult enough political climate, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ramped up his exchange of bellicose rhetoric with US president Donald Trump in the latter half of 2017, contributing to the negative perception around the region and further dampening international ticket sales and wider commercial interest. While the expectation remains that PyeongChang will pull through, the IOC, after a difficult year of its own, will be looking for it to do so sooner rather than later. AN

  • Racing towards PyeongChang: Sarah Lewis on the Winter Olympics and beyond

A sea change for sailing

It has been a year of choppy waters across the world of sailing. After a build-up that took on a life of its own, in the form of a lengthy World Series and qualification process, the 35th edition of the sport’s flagship America’s Cup contest finally got underway in Bermuda in June. While there was no repeat of Emirates Team New Zealand’s humiliating collapse of 2013 – this time around they held on to their commanding lead to claim a third victory – the antipodeans took the opportunity to land a humiliation of their own on to the rest of the America’s Cup field.

sports articles 2017

Seemingly having been prompted by its short-course counterpart, the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race also unveiled a biennial programme this year, only to capsize into chaos of its own.

Having failed to amass support among the VOR’s stakeholders for a change of boats and an all-new environmentally minded approach ahead of a mooted 2019/20 contest, chief executive Mark Turner stood down on the eve of the 13th edition , after just 16 months in charge, during which time commercial constraints continually conspired against his revolutionary plans for the race. The Swedish duo of Richard Brisius and Johan Salén will now be charged with getting the series back on course.

Sailing’s bright new future, it seems, remains perpetually beyond the horizon. AN

  • Around the world in eight legs with the Clipper Race

Qatar in the firing line – again

If 2010 afforded Qatar a vision of itself as a sporting superpower, the subsequent seven years have been a constant reminder of what that status will cost.

Ever since the tiny but affluent and influential gulf state was awarded the 2022 Fifa World Cup, the deluge of negative press surrounding its winning bid has ensured that when the tournament finally rolls around, it’s unlikely to be remembered for the soccer.

sports articles 2017

While this threatens to derail construction deadlines, equally disconcerting was a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report which revealed that workers building stadiums for 2022 are still operating under life-threatening heat and humidity.

And if the toxic combination of a diplomatic crisis and a potential human rights scandal isn’t troubling enough, one of the country’s key sports industry influencers, Nasser Al-Khelaifi (above), has also been the subject of two major probes. The BeIN Media Group chief executive, whose French soccer side Paris-Saint Germain are already being investigated by Uefa over their record-breaking €222 million purchase of Neymar, was also accused of criminally bribing disgraced former Fifa secretary general Jérôme Valcke to buy TV rights to two future World Cups.

The bad news keeps flooding in, and while Qatar’s powers that be will hope that the old adage of ‘new year, new me’ holds true in 2018, recent history has taught us to expect otherwise. SC

  • The Long Read: A tough year for Qatar and Al-Khelaifi

Golf’s status quo preserved as takeover talk resurfaces

Jay Monahan’s first year as PGA Tour commissioner was always going to be one of consolidation. Tim Finchem had departed at the end of 2016 with the tour in rude financial health, leaving his successor to do whatever necessary to affirm the American circuit’s position as the biggest and most powerful in world golf.

A US$650 million, ten-year extension with FedEx , the PGA Tour’s biggest corporate backer, in May only underlined that status, while a string of new sponsorship and media deals and the addition of new events added further lustre to a burgeoning brand.

sports articles 2017

Speaking in September, the Northern Irishman suggested a Monahan-led takeover of the European Tour could be a viable option, not least since having several competing tours was proving “counter-productive” for everyone bar the PGA Tour.

If the workability of a global tour remains up for debate, it was in the women’s game that takeover talk appeared to carry more substance, particularly after Ivan Khodabakhsh stepped down as chief executive of the Ladies European Tour (LET) in August amid a dwindling schedule and mounting financial troubles.

Khodabakhsh’s interim replacement, LET chairman Mark Lichtenhein, was formerly at the European Tour, fuelling speculation that a cross-gender merger could be forthcoming. The LET’s woes also piqued the interest of the US-based LPGA Tour, whose expansionist leaders will be keeping a close eye on developments in Europe heading into 2018. ML

  • How Jay Monahan’s PGA Tour is adapting to changing times

Mayweather and McGregor talk up a Vegas jackpot

It was the most talked about sporting event of the year and yet, in many respects, it barely constituted elite sport at all. It briefly outshone desert neon, then flickered out like a mirage.

A welterweight boxing match between undefeated multi-weight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr and Irish UFC sensation Conor McGregor held dubious competitive merit but was playground conjecture made flesh. It was sold on the back of playground taunts, too, through a promotional tour that took in four cities and a full measure of verbal abuse and crass grandstanding. But sell it did.

sports articles 2017

In the event, McGregor prepared thoroughly and performed gamely but was readily dismantled by Mayweather, who cruised through the middle rounds before deciding time was up in the tenth. The beaten man protested a hasty stoppage and suggested things would have gone differently in the octagon. The latter claim, at least, was undoubtedly true, but then there are some things Floyd Mayweather would not do for money.

The American duly collected an estimated US$300 million to close out a 50-fight career as a peerless heel, who mastered the art of saying what it took to promote a fight then doing what it took to win it. For all the summer talk of McGregor’s relentless pull, it is Mayweather whose gifts may not be matched again – inside or outside the ring. EC

SportsPro writers Eoin Connolly, Michael Long, Sam Carp, Elena Holmes and George Dudley all contributed to this story.


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In 2017, Sports Was A Battleground For National Events

Steve Inskeep talks to USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan and Washington Post writer Kevin Blackistone about the top sports stories of 2017 that resonated beyond the world of sport.


We're near the end of a year when the wall between sports and the rest of the news crumbled. People would like to think of sports as an escape - it's never entirely so. Sports reflect a changing society. Just think of the triumph of Jackie Robinson in a segregated America, or think of Muhammad Ali refusing the draft during Vietnam.

We brought in two of our favorite sportswriters to talk through the way sports have again become a battleground for national events. Christine Brennan writes a column for USA Today, and Kevin Blackistone writes for The Washington Post. So we asked both of you to nominate some sports stories that reflect the world beyond the playing field.

And, Kevin, why don't you go first?

KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Well, I thought one was Donald Trump and how he went on an attack against athletes and sports almost all year long, in particular, black athletes like Colin Kaepernick and the protests that he carried out with the anthem and the flag as a backdrop.

INSKEEP: And let's remember, Colin Kaepernick began this protest relating to the national anthem before Donald Trump was president. This has been going on for a while.

BLACKISTONE: Exactly, been going on since 2016. And it's a protest against police lethality against unarmed black men in this country.

INSKEEP: Christine, what do you make of the fact that Kaepernick has been unable to play the entire season?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Well, that is unfortunate because you would have thought, especially after Trump inserted himself into this story in late September in the Alabama Senate race of all things, and while the reaction was extraordinary - hundreds of players protesting that week and then the next and the next - I really thought at that point that a team might pick up Kaepernick.

BLACKISTONE: But I think, you know, the interesting thing is Kaepernick got a lot of support over the year. He wound up on the cover of GQ. SI gave him the Muhammad Ali award. His jersey jersey's still one of the top-selling jerseys in the league. So a lot of people did not turn him off and, in fact, embraced his protests.

BRENNAN: And I think history will judge. I mean, in 50 years when kids are studying cultural history at this time, Kaepernick and the protest is going to be a part of what they're studying.

INSKEEP: Isn't this just one of several ways that the president has found sports to be a battlefield for him?

BLACKISTONE: Absolutely. I mean, we saw his attack on the Golden State Warriors when Steph Curry said that he didn't want to visit the White House, which has become routine for championship teams.

INSKEEP: And the Warriors' coach, Steve Kerr, has been critical of the president and some of his policies.

BLACKISTONE: Absolutely. And then LeBron James popped into the fray and tweeted that the president was a bum. Jemele Hill on...


BLACKISTONE: ...ESPN came out and tweeted that Donald Trump was a white supremacist, which caused a furor at ESPN. And the network was attacked, and they had to suspend her. And she had to issue an apology. So yeah, it's been a - it's been sports politicized like we've never seen before.

INSKEEP: What's another way that sports have intersected with the news?

BRENNAN: Well, the Me Too movement. We saw it with the star gymnasts Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas, all of them talking about the sexual abuse that they suffered as gymnasts while they were winning medals for the nation that we're - everyone's cheering for them. So troubling in USA Gymnastics and what they didn't do.

INSKEEP: This has got to be especially troubling throughout sports because people play so young and maybe on a national stage or traveling or whatever so young.

BRENNAN: Well, and also an Olympic team. So, for example, U.S. swimming has had this issue for a long time. And the U.S. Olympic Committee is finally starting something called Safe Sport, a center to try to have a clearinghouse for this, but it is - it's an ongoing problem.

INSKEEP: Are there corners of the sporting world that have tried to be a leader on this issue?

BLACKISTONE: Certainly, women's sports that are led by women in the aftermath of the birth of Title IX, I think we've seen it there. But it's interesting that so many of these sports are sports involving women that are led by men or are men's sports in which women work and have had to face these problems of harassment as well as discrimination, and in some instances straight out assault.

BRENNAN: I would say a positive though that we've seen of recently was - is the Jerry Richardson story.


BRENNAN: So Jerry Richardson, the owner of the Carolina Panthers, former NFL player, he's the founder of the Panthers - and a incredibly damning, troubling story by Sports Illustrated of at least four issues where he settled with female employees. Awful comments, wanting women to be in his car and then he would seatbelt them in, massages, just on and on it goes. And that story broke on a - I think it was a Friday, and by Sunday, he was basically done. And Monday, he officially left the team. That's the owner of the team gone within 72 hours.

INSKEEP: Kevin, I know there's a somewhat different issue involving women that's on your mind because of a star tennis player.

BLACKISTONE: Serena Williams. What a year she had for an athlete, for a human being and specifically for women as an example. She won the Australian Open while pregnant. She would later give birth to a healthy baby. She had many of us discussing whether or not she's not the GOAT, the greatest athlete of our time, still active today. She's in her...

INSKEEP: That would be GOOT (ph), I think - G-O-O-T. But anyway, go on. Go on. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to...

BLACKISTONE: And then I thought she did something really interesting that kind of went overlooked. Maria Sharapova wrote a memoir in which she took some shots at Serena Williams, criticizing Serena Williams's body type - thick legs, big arms, that sort of thing. And Serena Williams responded by writing an open letter to her mother - Serena Williams's mother - in which part of it she celebrated her looks. She celebrated the black aesthetic when it comes to the female body. And I thought that was really reassuring. I thought it was affirming of black beauty, and I thought it was an important thing for her to do for the girls who look up to her.

BRENNAN: Well, and, Kevin, when you think about it, you know, Serena's 36, and Venus - her sisters's 37. And they're still winning or in the finals of Grand Slam events this past year. It's an extraordinary run. We will never see anything like it again. They have been tremendous role models for our daughters and our nieces and the girl next door. We should all be thanking the Williams sisters.

INSKEEP: Is there one more occasion you could name where sports have collided with the news?

BRENNAN: Well, I will say this, and a real positive - Houston. When you look at the city of Houston, Steve, obviously Hurricane Harvey, the devastation. Who doesn't remember the pictures of the water up to the signs on the interstate? Just horrifying. And then the turnaround - within a few weeks, the Houston Astros baseball team, the team that was so lousy a few years ago and yet that experiment - Sports Illustrated calling it three years ago, saying this is going to be the World Series champ in 2017. And lo and behold, it happens and Houston wins. Sports is a feel-good. Sports is this, you know, it sometimes - it sounds like a cliche, oh, brings us together - well, in this case, it does.

INSKEEP: Sometimes it does.

BLACKISTONE: It does, sure. Absolutely.

INSKEEP: Christine Brennan of USA Today, thank you very much.

BRENNAN: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: And Kevin Blackistone of The Washington Post. Thank you.

BLACKISTONE: Thanks, Steve.


Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Sporting Highlights for 2017

The year 2017 started in spectacular fashion with possibly the greatest Super Bowl ever, definitely the greatest ever comeback, providing a record 5th ring for Tom Brady . The New England Patriots rallied from 25 points down to send the Super Bowl to overtime for the first time in its history, and went on to win.

The USA dominated the medals at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships , though it was the final international race of Usain Bolt which captured the headlines. He finished third behind controversial sprinter Justin Gatlin . It was the first time Bolt had been beaten at a major championship since the 4x100m relay of the 2007 World Athletics Championships.

In tennis the same big names continue to be in the news, but maybe not for much longer. A 31-year-old Rafael Nadal became the oldest male player to finish the year as the world number, topping the rankings for the fourth time in his career. Longtime rival Roger Federer also had a great year, starting with a memorable Australian Open final 5-set win over Nadal to capture his 18th Grand Slam title, also winning his 19th at Wimbledon later in the year.

Cristiano Ronaldo Statue

Cristiano Ronaldo had a stellar year - he was named FIFA's best player in the world for the fourth time, scored his 600th career goal and secured a contract extension with Real Madrid that will pay more than $50 million annually for the next four years.

The highest paid sportsman in 2017 according to Forbes Magazine was footballer Cristiano Ronaldo with $US93 million dollars in earnings, with the highest paid woman Serena Williams with 27 million (same two as last year). There was also a big payday for the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor in the showdown between a champion boxer and a UFC champion.

The 2017 Laureus World Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards went to sprinter Usain Bolt and gymnast Simone Biles . The most famous sports people for the year , according to ESPN, were Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronda Rousey .

Notable deaths in sports for 2017 include: Jana Novotna 12-time doubles Grand Slam winner, Jake LaMotta , the middleweight champ portrayed by Robert De Niro in the classic "Raging Bull," and Margaret Bergmann Lambert, a German-Jewish high jumper banned from Hitler's 1936 Olympics.

What was your highlight? Take the poll of the Greatest 2017 Sporting Highlight .

Below is a timeline of some significant results in the world of sport for the year 2017.

If you have a correction or know of events that should be included here, please let me know .

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Google reveals the 10 most popular sporting events in worldwide searches during 2017

Google has released its top-trending searches of 2017 as part of their "Year in Search 2017."

Unsurprisingly, the list of the top-trending sporting events in searches from around the world has a decidedly international feel, featuring events like the Confederations Cup and the Tour de France. But the Super Bowl, World Series, and NBA Playoffs were also top searches, a testament to the US' impact on the global sports scene.

Below, find out more about the events that resonated the most with fans from around the world.

10. UEFA Champions League

sports articles 2017

The 2016-17 Champions League culminated with a heavily hyped showdown between Real Madrid and Juventus, and while Juve controlled the game in the early going, they were no match for Cristiano Ronaldo. The 32-year-old legend scored a pair of goals, leading Real to its third Champions League title in four years. This season, just 16 teams remain alive.

9. NBA Playoffs

sports articles 2017

Stretched out over almost two months, it's no surprise that the NBA's postseason games were some of the most heavily searched sporting events of the year. The third edition of the Warriors and Cavaliers' fight for dominance in the Finals was the main event, but between the Spurs, Rockets, and Celtics, there was plenty of other action to get excited about.

8. FIFA Confederations Cup

sports articles 2017

Three years after securing the World Cup, Germany made things twice as nice by winning their first Confederations Cup. They faced Chile in the final, coming out on top in the tense 1-0 match thanks to a goal by Lars Stindl.

sports articles 2017

While the NBA and MLB continued rapid evolutions in 2017, tennis seemed to turn back the clock by about 10 years. Nadal has been ravaged by injuries in recent seasons, but he stayed healthy enough to win two majors this year, including the U.S. Open. It was his third title in Arthur Ashe Stadium, giving him 16 Grand Slams for his career. On the women's side, Sloane Stephens emerged from an all-American semifinal to win her first Slam.

6. Australian Open

sports articles 2017

Serena Williams came out on top in the women's draw, her final event of the year before announcing her pregnancy. She went the entire tournament without dropping a set, defeating her sister Venus by score of 6-4, 6-4 in the final. On the men's side, it was Roger Federer who delivered a vintage performance, claiming his 18th major title to start his year off with a bang.

5. World Series

sports articles 2017

The 2017 World Series was an instant classic, complete with extra-inning games, huge home runs, and one satisfying finish. The Astros and Dodgers proved to be well-matched, but it was the former team that came out on top, cruising to a 5-1 victory in Game 7. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the city of Houston finally got something to smile about.

4. Tour de France

sports articles 2017

Covering 2,200 miles through France and Germany, the Tour de France provides a perfect combination of spectacular views and athletic competition. Chris Froome didn't win any one stage of the 2017 edition, but he was still the fastest man in the field by 54 seconds, giving him his fourth title in the past five years.

3. Mayweather vs McGregor Fight

sports articles 2017

Many boxing fans will tell you that this was a disappointing fight  — and it didn't matter for a second. As two of the foremost trash-talkers in the history of combat sports, Mayweather and McGregor were going to put on a show no matter what, and they delivered with a public feud that sparked almost as many eye rolls as Google searches. On fight night, Mayweather took control, winning by TKO in the 10th round.

2. Super Bowl

sports articles 2017

The New England Patriots' epic 25-point comeback made Super Bowl LI one of the best in history, but that wasn't the only storyline to get excited about. Between the Falcons' quest to win their first championship, Lady Gaga's moving halftime show performance, and a fresh wave of hilarious commercials, this event had something for everyone.

1. Wimbledon

sports articles 2017

It's not a big surprise to see this king of tennis tournaments top the list, especially given the result in the men's draw. Roger Federer cruised to his record-breaking eighth Wimbledon title, becoming the first man in the open era to win the event without dropping a set since Bjorn Borg in 1976. On the women's side, Spain's Garbine Muguruza won the second Grand Slam title of her career.

Now check out the most popular sports teams of 2017.

sports articles 2017

Google reveals the 10 most popular pro sports teams in searches during 2017

sports articles 2017

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The top US stories of 2017

The Guardian's US editors select and introduce their top stories from 2017

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The top US news stories of 2017: postcards from Trump's America

sports articles 2017

The top US feature stories of 2017: America off the beaten track

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The top US opinion stories of 2017: critiquing a tumultuous year

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The top US environment stories of 2017: Trump makes the political weather

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The top US culture stories of 2017: Get Out, rightwing comics and Christian rock

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The top US sports stories of 2017: NFL, Conor McGregor and Dennis Rodman

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The top US tech stories of 2017: the utopian dream comes to an end

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sports articles 2017

The biggest sports stories of 2017

2017 was a banner year around the globe in the wide, wide world of sports. It featured a classic championship showdown in MLB, unforgettable championship games on the gridiron and a prizefight spectacle unlike the world has ever seen before....and perhaps ever again. Meanwhile, legends moved on, while others extended their legacies. And new ones were born, while new faces looked to get their names off the ground (some by any means necessary).

It was also a year where politics of all types collided with sports in ways never seen before, redefining the narrative and conversation around where games and reality intersect. Let's have a look back at a busy year around the global sports scene, and the highlights (as well as a few lowlights) from it.

Clemson pulls off a shocker

One of the biggest upsets in years kicked off the highlight portion of the year, when the Clemson Tigers upset the Alabama Crimson Tide 35-31 on a touchdown catch by Hunter Renfrow with one second left. It was the first time the Tigers led the entire game and capped a night in which Deshaun Watson set a new National Championship Game record of 405 passing yards.

Serena Williams sets Grand Slam record

For the seventh time, Williams conquered the outback, winning the Australian Open. In the process, she won her 23 rd Grand Slam singles title, passing Steffi Graf for most all time. To cap it off, she later revealed that she was astonishingly eight weeks pregnant at the time of the victory.

A Super Bowl for the ages

Trailing 28-3, the New England Patriots would embark on a furious comeback over the final quarter and a half to pull even by the end of regulation. The first Super Bowl to ever be decided in overtime, a 2-yard run by James White capped a 75-yard winning drive for the Patriots, winning by a score of 34-28. Tom Brady won his fourth Super Bowl MVP and record fifth overall victory in the game.

Team USA wins the World Baseball Classic

After coming up short in the first three incarnations of the worldwide event, the United States finally broke through to claim its first championship in the World Baseball Classic. The U.S. overcame a previously undefeated Puerto Rico team in the championship game behind six scoreless, no-hit innings from tournament MVP Marcus Stroman.

Goldberg is back

Thirteen years after his last WrestleMania appearance, Bill Goldberg made his return to the spectacle for a rematch against Brock Lesnar. Having won the WWE Universal Title the previous month, Goldberg unsuccessfully defended the belt against Lesnar in a high-impact, thoroughly entertaining bout between the two premier heavyweight fighters of their generation. It capped a six-month revival run for the wrestler, who said his farewells the next night on Monday Night Raw.

Sergio Garcia finally gets his Major victory

After 74 shots, Garcia finally got over the hump in a Major tournament. Although the 37-year-old had nine PGA Tour wins and five top three finishes in Major tournaments, the big one had eluded him more notably than perhaps any golfer ever. But by outlasting Justin Rose in a sudden-death overtime, Garcia finally got his green jacket by shooting nine under for the weekend in the Masters.

A star is born in Edmonton

It must be something akin to déjà vu in Edmonton, as another precociously talented center took his turn rising to stardom in a way that has rarely been seen since Wayne Gretzky called the Oilers' ice his home. McDavid scored 100 points in his sophomore season, helping end the club’s 11-year playoff drought and making him the third-youngest winner of the Art Ross and Hart Trophies in history with his NHL-best 100 points.

Farewell to Joe Louis Arena

After hosting the Detroit Red Wings since 1977 and becoming the second oldest venue in the NHL, Joe Louis Arena hosted its final hockey game on April 9, a 4-1 victory for the Red Wings. The venue hosted four Stanley Cup championship and six conference championship seasons, although the Red Wings ironically saw their 26-year playoff streak ended in the final season before moving over to Little Caesars Arena.

FC Barcelona's stunning comeback

The Spanish League champions were down 5-3 after 88 minutes before unleashing a furious comeback over the final seven minutes. As the match wound down, Neymar netted a pair of goals to even things up before Sergi Roberto came off the bench and netted his first goal of the year to cap the comeback. Barcelona became the first team in Champions League history to overcome a 4-0 deficit off the first pitch.

Nashville becomes a hockey hotbed

Twenty years ago, the notion that Nashville would become a hotbed for hockey would have been stand-up comedy-worthy content. Yet, the city adapted to the game, transforming into "Smashville" and becoming one of the most hostile home-ice advantages in the game. That is exactly what happened this spring, when the Predators embarked on a sprint toward winning the Western Conference and a strong showing in the Stanley Cup Final.

Takuma Sato becomes first Japanese driver to win Indy 500

In 2013, Sato became the first Japanese-born driver to ever win an IndyCar race when he won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Four years later, he conquered the biggest stock car race in the country when he emerged victorious at the Indianapolis 500, leading for 17 laps.

The Warriors fulfill their promise

Expectations were through the roof for the Warriors all season after the team rallied from losing the 2016 NBA Finals by bringing aboard former MVP Kevin Durant. With Durant joining Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the Warriors went 67-15 and clinched a playoff berth by February. In their third pairing against LeBron James and the Cavs, the Warriors got their revenge for the lost championship from the year before, with Durant averaging 35.2 points en route to NBA Finals MVP.

The Pens do it again

It had been 19 years since a team had been able to successfully keep a grasp on the Stanley Cup until the Pens did so, defeating the Predators in six games. Sidney Crosby won the Conn Smythe Trophy for the second time in as many years, putting up one of the gutsiest playoff performances in history. Battling concussion symptoms, Crosby put up 27 playoff points and raised the Cup for the third time in his career.

The emergence of the Ball family

Starting with the rise of Lonzo as a freshman sensation for UCLA, the Ball family became the sports equivalent of the Kardashian clan seemingly overnight. Father LaVar’s penchant for outlandish statements and pushing his Big Baller Brand sportswear company at any cost pushed the Balls firmly into the pop culture spectrum. With Lonzo joining the Los Angeles Lakers and his younger brothers LiAngelo (who had a notorious brush with international law himself) and LaMelo coming up behind him, this is a sensation that is likely here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Branden Grace shoots a 62

In the third round of the The Open Championship, the South African golfer made eight birdies and 10 pars for the first-ever score of 62  in a Major championship. 

Aaron Judge clubs his way to superstar status

The breakout star of the MLB season was the hulking, 6-7 outfielder for the Yankees who made the incredible look routine. Judge launched an MLB rookie-record 52 home runs en route to a All-Star Home Run Derby title, runner-up finish in American League MVP voting and helped carry the Yankees on an unexpected run to the AL Championship Series.

Rafael Nadal's spectacular season

The King of Clay conquered Roland-Garros for a record 10 th time and a 15 th Grand Slam title, becoming the first male competitor to ever reach double-digit titles at a single Grand Slam event. Nadal’s French title was followed by a victory in the U.S. Open, the high points in a year in which he won six times and finished as the oldest player ever to end the year ranked No. 1 in the world.

The BIG3 League breaks out

Ice Cube’s remix on what basketball could be turned into a full-blown touring sensation with some of the most popular retired NBAers of all time making up the ranks of the league. With names like Allen Iverson, Charles Oakley and Jason Williams on the court, and Hall of Famers Julius Erving, Gary Payton, George Gervin and Clyde Drexler roaming the sidelines, the BIG3 League proved to be far more successful —  and entertaining — than many anticipated.

Froome's fourth Tour de France comes in a thriller

British cyclist Chris Froome won his fourth Tour de France and did so in the most thrilling fashion ever. Froome won by just 54 seconds over Rigoberto Uran. It marked Froome’s fourth win in five years, and he enters 2018 with a chance to tie for the most Tour victories in history.

Roger Federer's perfect romp to Wimbledon win

Federer was flawless en route to his eighth win on Centre Court, breaking a tie with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw for most titles in the event’s history. Federer did not drop a set during the fortnight, becoming the second player in history to win the tournament in such fashion, along with Bjorn Borg.

The short-lived return of Jon Jones

For the second time in two years, Jones had a victorious return sabotaged by his own doing. After a drawn-out rivalry with Daniel Cormier, Jones pulled off a resounding knockout victory to claim the UFC Light Heavyweight title. However, after the decision was retroactively declared a no-contest due to a positive test for banned substances, Jones was again taken out of action for the foreseeable future.

Tomlinson headlines Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees

After a career that saw him rack up over 18,000 all-purpose yards and 150 touchdowns, LaDainian Tomlinson headlined the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2017. Joining him in Canton were Kurt Warner , Jason Taylor, Morten Andersen, Terrell Davis and Jerry Jones.

Neymar becomes the most expensive athlete ever

Paris Saint-Germai set out to acquire the superstar Brazilian forward, and did so by any means necessary. When it was all said and done, it cost the club a massive 450 million euros to lure him away from Barcelona, with a transfer fee worth $262 million in U.S. currency. The total value of the acquisition makes him the most expensive acquisition in pro sports history.

The Indians go streaking

En route to winning a second straight American League Central title, for roughly three weeks, the Cleveland Indians seemingly forgot how to lose. The club embarked on an AL-record 22-game win streak that pulled it to top of the AL standings and ended as the second longest winning streak since 1916.

End of the road for the world's fastest man

After an unparalleled career that saw him win eight Olympic gold medals and set numerous world records, Usain Bolt ’s final take to the track ended in a less than savory way. The legendary sprinter injured his hamstring in his final race, yet still rose to cross the finish line with the help of teammates.

Giancarlo Stanton puts on a show

Stanton put on the signature power showing of his career over July and August, clubbing 23 home runs in 35-game period, including six games in a row and in 10 of 11 games. When it was all said and done, Stanton had 59 long balls, becoming the closest player to finish with 60 home runs since Barry Bonds hit 73 in 2001. It was a surge good enough to win Stanton National League MVP honors.

Cooperstown welcomes five to Baseball Hall of Fame

After 10 years on the ballot, Tim Raines finally heard his name called for Cooperstown as the zero hour for his chances ticked down. The former Montreal Expos speedster was joined in induction by a trio of former MVPs in Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez and Joe Torre, along with commissioner emeritus Bud Selig.


Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on the city of Houston, forcing thousands to evacuate their homes and causing millions of dollars in property damage. The sports community of the city sprung into action to help aid the residents of the city, with the Houston Astros ' #HoustonStrong awareness push and multimillion-dollar donations from ownership of the Astros, Rockets and Texans. Yet the breakout effort of the campaign came from J.J. Watt, who grew a viral campaign that started with a goal of $200,000 into a $30 million nest egg to help fund the city’s rebuilding efforts.

The curious unemployment of Colin Kaepernick continues

The driving symbol behind the protests that have divided the NFL and society, Colin Kaepernick remained an outcast from the ranks of the NFL after departing from the San Francisco 49ers following the 2016 season. As the months rolled past and multiple teams filled in their quarterback vacancies with other options, Kaepernick’s unspoken exclusion from the game became a rallying cause for many to stand behind the NFL’s protesting players — while also going on strike from the league themselves.

Sloane Stephens wins the U.S. Open

The underdog of the year may very well have been Stephens, who went from injured commentator on the Tennis Network to U.S. Open champion. She won out after a thrilling three-set showdown with Venus Williams , capping it with a win over Madison Keys in the finals.

McGrady, Lobo headline Baskeball Hall of Fame class

Former Houston Rockets , Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors star Tracy McGrady and UConn and New York Liberty great Rebecca Lobo highlighted an 11-person class for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Joining the headliners were coach Bill Self, Jerry Krause and George McGinnis.

Mayweather vs. McGregor lives up to the hype

It should come as no surprise that the most hyped, sensational, financially successful and sometimes awkward event of the year was the Floyd Mayweather- Conor McGregor mega fight from September. It was the headline event after a world media tour blitz and war of words that nearly eclipsed the fight itself. In the end, Mayweather won via TKO in a surprisingly competitive fight against the two-division UFC champion, with both fighters clearing a rumored $300 million for the 10-round brawl.

Protests get political — and spread

Already contentious times in the NFL hit a new boiling point when President Donald Trump shared some choice words about the protesting players and a perceived lack of institutional control by league owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell. Affairs even went as far as Vice President Mike Pence leaving a Colts-49ers game in apparent rebuttal against the protests. In response, multiple NFL owners joined arms with their players in a show of league solidarity. However, that act went against the grain of the purpose of the protests in the first place, further irking some players.

U.S. Men's National Team fails to qualify for the World Cup

The most embarrassing moment in the history of U.S. soccer transpired in October when at the feet of a 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago, the USMNT was disqualified from the 2018 World Cup tournament. The loss was a proverbial brick wall in the recent growth of the men’s program. The loss led to the resignation of coach Bruce Arena, the second coaching change   in two years ’ time.

The Fall Classic lives up to its name

Whomever ends up participating in the 2018 edition of the World Series has some big shoes to fill, as the Dodgers and Astros put on an act for the ages this fall. The series was the first time in 37 years that two 100-win teams would face off for the pennant, and it delivered by going the distance in thrilling fashion. Neither team would win consecutive games, and when the dust settled after a record 25 home runs hit, two extra-inning games and a seemingly endless string of lead changes, the Houston Astros emerged victorious with their first championship in franchise history.

Dale Jr. calls it quits

After a career that included 26 wins, 15 poles and 260 top-10 finishes, the 15-time NMPA Most Popular Driver called it quits in November. A string of concussions and lingering concerns brought Dale Earnhardt Jr. ’s career to a close. In his final season, Dale Jr. finished 21 st in the points standings but will live on as one of the most beloved competitors in the history of racing.

High-profile injuries ravage rosters across the NFL

Football is a vicious and oft-unforgiving sport, but the rash of injuries that swept across the NFL this fall hit a caliber rarely seen before. A who’s who of losses, including the likes of Aaron Rodgers , Odell Beckham Jr., J.J. Watt , David Johnson, Ryan Tannehill, Carson Palmer, Dalvin Cook, Jason Peters, Julian Edelman, Richard Sherman and Eric Berry, among others, took an unavoidable toll on the direction of the season.

Ezekiel Elliott's off-field trouble extends to on-field

The Cowboys running back spent much of the fall avoiding judgment from the NFL. After an endless stream of appeals against a six-game suspension stemming from domestic violence accusations, Elliott stayed on the field for eight weeks before ultimately running out of steam just short of needing the Supreme Court to keep him in action.

College Football Playoff selections are the right kind of crazy

Although there have been some critics of the partiality of the College Football Playoff's selection process, it without a doubt added more intrigue to the final weeks of the season than ever before this fall. Entering conference championship week, eight teams had a legitimate shot at competing for the National Championship. Ultimately, Clemson and Oklahoma won their way in on the last Saturday of pre-bowl season, with Alabama sliding back in as a result of Ohio State handing Wisconsin its first loss of the year the night before playoff brackets were finalized — joining SEC champion Georgia.

Tennessee's search for a coach turns into reality TV

The fallout of the University of Tennessee’s decision to fire coach Butch Jones caused a tailspin of uniquely epic proportions. An agreement with Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano was rescinded due in part to an unprecedented social media backlash. The search that followed ranged from Jon Gruden to Purdue coach Jeff Brohm and Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, only to come up embarrassingly dry. The entire event was mishandled badly enough that the program's athletic director, John Currie, ended up on the chopping block as well, with former coach Phillip Fulmer taking over in his place. It took a while, but Tennessee finally agreed to terms with Jeremy Pruitt to become head coach.

Scandal rocks U.S. Gymnastics program

When Larry Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison in early December, it brought an end to one of the most diabolical and wide-spanning scandals in sports history. The former physician for the USA Women’s Gymnastics Team, Nasser was charged with sexually assaulting 140 women. Among those who stepped forward with claims against him included gold medalists Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney, providing one of the most stunning cases of sexual misconduct in a year where such cases changed the narrative of workplace conduct throughout the country.

Matt Whitener is St. Louis-based writer, radio host and 12-6 curveball enthusiast. He has been covering Major League Baseball since 2010, and dabbles in WWE, NBA and other odd jobs as well. Follow Matt on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan .

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Insights > Sports & gaming

2017 year in sports media, 1 minute read | february 2018.

The 2017 Year in Sports Media report looks at some of the top moments in sports and how what happened this past year could impact the short and long-term futures of sports rights holders, fans and sponsors.

  • How are sports viewing habits changing?
  • What are leagues doing to engage with the modern sports fan?
  • What sponsorship trends are emerging among U.S. sports?

Access to sports content is at a 15-year high across U.S. television, with content creators producing more than 134,000 hours of sports news, event, anthology and commentary programming in 2017. And when it comes to consumption, 86 of the top 100 telecasts viewed live or on the same day were sports related.

Sports Events Drive TV Audiences

TV is still a key medium for audiences to connect with sports content. Despite the potential for audiences to disperse across other media, “sports” still accounted for 86 of the top 100 telecasts viewed Live+SD** in 2017. As audiences connect with remote fans across social platforms, they will continue to congregate in person around TV.

**Includes telecasts 15 minutes in duration or longer; includes pre and post event telecasts.

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Physical Activity and Sports—Real Health Benefits: A Review with Insight into the Public Health of Sweden

Christer malm.

1 Sports Medicine Unit, Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation, Umeå University, 901 87 Umeå, Sweden; [email protected]

Johan Jakobsson

Andreas isaksson.

2 Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery, Karolinska Institutet, 171 77 Solna, Sweden; [email protected]

Positive effects from sports are achieved primarily through physical activity, but secondary effects bring health benefits such as psychosocial and personal development and less alcohol consumption. Negative effects, such as the risk of failure, injuries, eating disorders, and burnout, are also apparent. Because physical activity is increasingly conducted in an organized manner, sport’s role in society has become increasingly important over the years, not only for the individual but also for public health. In this paper, we intend to describe sport’s physiological and psychosocial health benefits, stemming both from physical activity and from sport participation per se. This narrative review summarizes research and presents health-related data from Swedish authorities. It is discussed that our daily lives are becoming less physically active, while organized exercise and training increases. Average energy intake is increasing, creating an energy surplus, and thus, we are seeing an increasing number of people who are overweight, which is a strong contributor to health problems. Physical activity and exercise have significant positive effects in preventing or alleviating mental illness, including depressive symptoms and anxiety- or stress-related disease. In conclusion, sports can be evolving, if personal capacities, social situation, and biological and psychological maturation are taken into account. Evidence suggests a dose–response relationship such that being active, even to a modest level, is superior to being inactive or sedentary. Recommendations for healthy sports are summarized.

1. Introduction

Sport is a double-edged sword regarding effects on health. Positive effects are achieved primarily through physical activity, which is the main part of most sports. Many secondary effects of sport also bring health benefits, such as psychosocial development of both young [ 1 ] and old [ 2 ], personal development [ 3 ], later onset, and less consumption of alcohol [ 4 , 5 ]. Finally, those who play sports have a higher level of physical activity later in life [ 6 ], and through sport, knowledge of nutrition, exercise, and health can be developed [ 7 ]. Negative effects include the risk of failure leading to poor mental health [ 8 , 9 ], risk of injury [ 10 , 11 ], eating disorders [ 12 ], burnout [ 13 ], and exercise-induced gastrointestinal tract discomfort [ 14 ]. In sport, there are unfortunately also reports of physical and psychological abuse [ 15 ]. Negative aspects are more common in elite-level sports, where there is a fine balance between maximum performance and negative health. A somewhat unexpected effect of sport participation is that people submitting to planned training in some cases perform less physical activity compared to those who are exercising without a set schedule. One explanation can be a reduced spontaneous physical activity in the latter group [ 16 ]. Because physical activity is increasingly executed in an organized manner [ 17 , 18 , 19 ], sport’s role in society has become increasingly important over the years, not only for the individual but also for public health.

In this paper, we describe the health effects of sport from a physiological and psychological perspective, related both to physical activity and added values of sport per se. Initially, brief definitions of various concepts related to physical activity and health are given. This is then followed by: (1) A brief description of how physical activity and training affect our body from a physiological perspective; (2) a report on the health effects of physical activity and training; and (3) sport’s specific influences on the various dimensions of health. We chose to discuss the subject from an age-related perspective, separating children/adolescents, adults, and the elderly, as well as separating for sex in each age group.

2. Definitions of Physical Activity, Exercise, Training, Sport, and Health

Definitions and terms are based on “Physical activity in the prevention and treatment of disease” (FYSS, www.fyss.se [Swedish] [ 20 ]), World Health Organization (WHO) [ 21 ] and the US Department of Human Services [ 22 ]. The definition of physical activity in FYSS is: “Physical activity is defined purely physiologically, as all body movement that increases energy use beyond resting levels”. Health is defined according to the World Health Organization (WHO) as: “[…] a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” [ 21 ].

Physical activity can occur spontaneously (leisure/work/transport) or organized and be divided according to purpose: Physical exercise is aimed primarily at improving health and physical capacity. Physical training is aimed primarily at increasing the individual’s maximum physical capacity and performance [ 23 ]. Physical inactivity is described as the absence of body movement, when energy consumption approximates resting levels. People who do not meet recommendations for physical activity are considered physically inactive and are sometimes called “sedentary”. Sport can be organized by age, sex, level of ambition, weight or other groupings [ 24 ]. Sport can also be spontaneous [ 7 , 17 ] and defined as a subset of exercises undertaken individually or as a part of a team, where participants have a defined goal [ 7 ]. General recommendations for physical activity are found in Table 1 , not considering everyday activities. One can meet the daily recommendations for physical activity by brief, high-intensity exercise, and remaining physically inactive for the rest of the day, thereby creating a “polarization” of physical activity: Having a high dose of conscious physical training, despite having a low energy expenditure in normal life due to high volumes of sedentary time. Polarization of physical activity may lead to increased risk of poor health despite meeting the recommendations for physical activity [ 25 , 26 , 27 ]. During most of our lives, energy expenditure is greater in normal daily life than in sport, physical training, and exercise, with the exceptions of children and the elderly, where planned physical activity is more important [ 28 ].

Recommendations regarding physical activity for different target groups. Note that additional health effects can be achieved if, in addition to these recommendations, the amount of physical activity increases, either by increasing the intensity or duration or a combination of both.

Compiled from FYSS 2017 ( www.fyss.se ) and WHO 2017 ( www.who.int ).

3. Aerobic and Muscle-Strengthening Physical Activity

Physical activity is categorized according to FYSS as: (1) Aerobic physical activity and (2) muscle-strengthening physical activity. Physical activity in everyday life and exercise training is mainly an aerobic activity, where a majority of energy production occurs via oxygen-dependent pathways. Aerobic physical activity is the type of activity typically associated with stamina, fitness, and the biggest health benefits [ 29 , 30 , 31 ]. Muscle-strengthening physical activity is referred to in everyday language as “strength training” or “resistance training” and is a form of physical exercise/training that is primarily intended to maintain or improve various forms of muscle strength and increase or maintain muscle mass [ 32 ]. Sometimes, another category is defined: Muscle-enhancing physical activity, important for maintenance or improvement of coordination and balance, especially in the elderly [ 33 ]. According to these definitions, muscle-strengthening activities primarily involve the body’s anaerobic (without oxygen) energy systems, proportionally more as intensity increases.

Exercise intensity can be expressed in absolute or relative terms. Absolute intensity means the physical work (for example; Watts [W], kg, or metabolic equivalent [MET]), while relative intensity is measured against the person’s maximum capacity or physiology (for example; percentage of maximum heart rate (%HR), rate of perceived exhaustion (RPE), W·kg −1 or relative oxygen uptake in L·min −1 ·kg −1 (VO 2 )). In terms of recommendations to the public, as in Table 1 , the intensity is often described in subjective terms (“makes you breathe harder” for moderate intensity, and “makes you puff and pant” for vigorous intensity) [ 27 ]. While objective criteria such as heart rate and accelerometry will capture the intensity of activity, they may not distinguish between different types of physical activity behaviors [ 34 ]. FYSS defines low intensity as 20%–39% of VO 2 max, <40 %HR, 1.5–2.9 METs; moderate intensity as 40%–59% of VO 2 max, 60–74 %HR, 3.0–5.9 METs, and vigorous intensity as 60%–89% of VO 2 max, 75–94 %HR, 6.0–8.9 METs. Absolute intensity, however, can vary greatly between individuals where a patient with heart disease may have a maximal capacity of <3 MET, and an elite athlete >20 MET [ 35 ].

4. How does the Body Adapt to Physical Activity and Training?

Adaption to physical activity and training is a complex physiological process, but may, in the context of this paper, be simplified by a fundamental basic principle:” The general adaptation syndrome (GAS)” [ 36 , 37 , 38 ]. This principle assumes that physical activity disturbs the body’s physiological balance, which the body then seeks to restore, all in a dose-related response relationship. The overload principle states that if exercise intensity is too low, overload is not reached to induce desired physiological adaptations, whereas an intensity too high will result in fatigue and possibly overtraining. Thus, for adaptation to occur, greater than normal stress must be induced, interspersed with sufficient recovery periods for restoration of physiological balance [ 39 ]. During and immediately after physical exercise/training, functions of affected tissues and systems are impaired, manifested as temporarily decreased performance. You feel tired. In order to gradually improve performance capacity, repeated cycles of adequate overload and recovery are required [ 40 ]. In practice, positive effects can be seen after a relatively short period of a few weeks, but more substantial improvements if the training is maintained for a longer period.

As a rule of thumb, it is assumed that all people can adapt to physical activity and exercise, but the degree of adaptation depends on many factors, including age, heredity, the environment, and diet [ 41 , 42 , 43 , 44 ]. The hereditary factor (genetics) may be the most critical for adaptation [ 45 ]. The degree of adaptation also depends on how the person in question trained previously; a well-trained athlete usually does not have the same relative improvement as an untrained one. Even if training is thought to be specific to mode, intensity, and duration, there are some overlaps. For example, it has been found that strength training in some individuals contributes to a relatively large positive impact on health and endurance, effects previously associated primarily with aerobic exercise [ 46 , 47 ]. The overload principle may, if applied too vigorously in relation to a person’s individual adaptation ability, have detrimental effects, including reduced performance, injury, overtraining, and disease [ 10 ]. Training is a commodity that must be renewed; otherwise, you gradually lose achieved performance improvements [ 48 ], although some capacities, such as muscle memory, seem to persist for life [ 49 ].

General recommendations for health may be stated, but individual predispositions make general training schedules for specific performance effects unpredictable. All exercise training should be adjusted to individual purposes, goals, and circumstances.

5. Health Effects of Physical Activity and Training

Human biology requires a certain amount of physical activity to maintain good health and wellbeing. Biological adaption to life with less physical activity would take many generations. People living today have, more or less, the same requirements for physical activity as 40,000 years ago [ 50 , 51 ]. For an average man with a body weight of 70 kg, this corresponds to about 19 km daily walking in addition to everyday physical activity [ 52 ]. For most people, daily physical activity decreases, while planned, conscious exercise and training increases [ 19 , 53 ]. Unfortunately, average daily energy intake is increasing more than daily energy output, creating an energy surplus. This is one reason for the increasing number of overweight people, and a strong contributor to many health problems [ 54 ]. More sedentary living (not reaching recommended level of physical activity), combined with increased energy intake, impairs both physical and mental capabilities and increases the risk of disease. Despite this, Swedes (as an example) seemed to be as physically active and stressed but had better general health in 2015, compared to 2004 ( Figure 1 ). Compared to 2004–2007, the Swedish population in 2012–2015 reported better overall health (more county-dots are blue) and less fatigue (smaller county-dots) with similar level of physical activity (~65% indicated at least 30 min daily physical activity) and stress (~13% were stressed).

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is sports-07-00127-g001.jpg

Selected physical and mental health indicators of a Sweden cohort, in relation to the degree of physical activity for the period of years 2004–2007 ( N = 29,254) and years 2012–2015 ( N = 38,553). Surveyed subjects are age 16 to 84 years old, with data representing median scores of four years, not normalized for age. Y-axis: Percentage of subjects reporting “stressed”; X-axis: Percentage of subjects indicating physical active at least 30 minutes each day. Each dot represents one County (Län), dot-size indicates self-reported fatigue, and color self-reported healthiness of the County. If 70% of the population states they are having “Good/Very good” health, the dot is blue. If less than 70% states they are having good/very good health, the dot is red. The circle indicated with a black arrow corresponds to nation median. The black line connected to the nation circle represents the movement in the X–Y plane from the year 2004 to 2007, and from 2012 to 2015, respectively. Data retrieved from the Public Health Agency of Sweden 2019-04-22 ( www.folkhalsomyndigheten.se ).

Results in Figure 1 may in part be explained by a polarization of who is physically active: Some individuals are extremely active, others very inactive, giving a similar central tendency (mean/median). As physical activity and mental stress are not changed, but health is, the figure indicates that other factors must be more important to our overall health and fatigue. Recently, a national study of Swedish 11- to 15-year-olds concluded that this age group is inactive for most of their time awake, that is, sitting, standing or moving very little [ 55 ]. Time as inactive increased with age, from 67 percent for 11-year-olds to 75 percent for 15-year-olds. The study states that in all age groups, the inactive time is evenly distributed over the week, with school time, leisure time, and weekend. Further, those who feel school-related stress have more inactive time, both overall and during school hours, than those who have less school-related stress.

People active in sports have, in general, better health than those who do not participate in sports, because they are physically and mentally prepared for the challenges of sports, abilities that in many cases can be transferred to other parts of life [ 56 ].

However, there is a certain bias in this statement. Sport practitioners are already positively selected, because sickness and injury may prevent participation. As many health benefits of sport are related to the level of physical activity, separation of sport and physical exercise may be problematic. Regardless, societal benefits of these health effects can be seen in lower morbidity, healthier elderly, and lower medical costs [ 7 , 57 , 58 ].

Health effects of physical activity in many cases follow a dose–response relationship; dose of physical activity is in proportion to the effect on health [ 59 , 60 ]. Figure 2 depicts the relationship between risk of death and level of physical activity, in a Finnish twin cohort, adjusted for smoking, occupational group, and alcohol consumption [ 59 ]. Odds ratio (OR) for the risk of all-cause mortality in a larger sample in the same study was 0.80 for occasional exercisers ( p = 0.002, 95% CI = 0.69–0.91). This dose–response relationship between risk of all-cause mortality and physical activity is evident in several extensive studies [ 60 , 61 , 62 ]. The total dose is determined by the intensity (how strenuous), duration (duration), and frequency (how often). While Figure 2 shows sex differences in death rates, it is likely that sedentary behavior is equally hazardous for men and women, but inconsistent results sometime occur due to inadequate assessment measures, or low statistical power [ 59 , 63 ]. To obtain the best possible development due to physical exercise/training, both for prevention and treatment purposes, a basic understanding of how these variables affect the dose of activity is required, as well as understanding how they can be modified to suit individual requirements. A physically active population is important for the health of both the individual and society, with sport participation being one, increasingly important, motivator for exercise.

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Relative risk (odds ratio; OR) of premature death in relationship to level of physical activity, in 286 male and 148 female twin pairs, adjusted for smoking, occupational group, and use of alcohol [ 59 ].

There is strong scientific evidence supporting an association between physical exercise/training and good physical and mental health. For example: A reduction in musculoskeletal disorders and reduced disability due to chronic disease [ 27 , 64 ], better mental health with reduced anxiety [ 65 , 66 ], insomnia [ 67 ], depression [ 31 ], stress [ 68 ], and other psychological disorders [ 69 ]. Physical and mental health problems are related to an increased risk of developing a number of our major public health diseases and may contribute to premature death ( Table 2 ).

Health-related physiological effects of aerobic and muscle strengthening physical activity. Green circle indicates that the activity contributes with an effect, whereas a red circle indicates that the activity has no proven effect. Orange circle indicates that the activity may in some cases be effective.

5.1. Effects on Physical Health

The effects of physical activity and exercise are both acute (during and immediately after) and long-lasting. Effects remaining after a long period of regular physical activity have far-reaching consequences for health and are described below. For example, some muscle enzymes’ activity can be quickly increased by physical exercise/training but just as quickly be lost when idle [ 118 ]. Other changes remain for months or years even if training ends—for instance, increased number and size of muscle fibers and blood vessels [ 49 , 119 , 120 ]. Good health, therefore, requires physical activity to be performed with both progression and continuity. Most of the conducted physical exercise/training is a combination of both aerobic and muscle strengthening exercise, and it can be difficult to distinguish between their health effects ( Table 2 ).

To describe ill-health, indicators of life expectancy, disease incidence (number), and prevalence (how often) are used [ 121 ]. In describing the relationship between physical activity and falling ill with certain diseases, the dose–response relationship, the effect size (the risk reduction that is shown in studies), and the recommended type and dose of physical activity are considered [ 122 ]. Table 3 shows the relative effects of regular physical activity ton the risk of various diseases (US Department of Human Services, 2009). The greatest health gains are for people who move from completely sedentary to moderately active lifestyles, with health effects seen before measurable improvements in physical performance. Previously, most scientific studies collected data only on aerobic physical activity. However, resistance exercise also shows promising health (mental and physical) and disease-prevention effects [ 123 , 124 , 125 , 126 , 127 ].

Disease prevention effects of regular physical activity.

Compiled from US Department of Health and Human Service, https://health.gov/paguidelines/report/ [ 62 , 146 ] 1 : Risk reduction refers to the relative risk in physically active samples in comparison to a non-active sample, i.e., a risk reduction of 20% means that the physically active sample has a relative risk of 0.8, compared to the non-active sample, which has 1.0. 2 : In general, general recommendations for PA that are described and referred to herein apply to most conditions. However, in some cases, more specific recommendations exist, more in depth described by the US Department of Health and Human Service, amongst others [ 62 ]. 3 : Evidence is dependent on cancer subtype; refer to US Department of Health and Human Service [ 62 ] for in-depth guidance. PA = Physical.

Aerobic physical activity has been shown to benefit weight maintenance after prior weight loss, reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, normalize blood lipids, and help with cancer/cancer-related side effects ( Table 2 and Table 3 ), while effects on chronic pain are not as clear [ 29 ].

Muscle-strengthening physical activity has, in contrast to aerobic exercise, been shown to reduce muscle atrophy [ 128 ], risk of falling [ 75 ], and osteoporosis [ 74 ] in the elderly. Among the elderly, both men and women adapt positively to strength training [ 129 ]. Strength training also prevents obesity [ 130 ], enhances cognitive performance if done alongside aerobic exercise [ 131 ], counteracts the development of neurodegenerative diseases [ 132 , 133 , 134 ], reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome [ 135 ], counteracts cancer/cancer-related side effects [ 135 , 136 ], reduces pain and disability in joint diseases [ 137 ], and enhances bone density [ 137 , 138 ]. The risk of falling increases markedly with age and is partly a result of reduced muscle mass, and reduced coordination and balance [ 76 , 139 , 140 ]. A strong correlation between physical performance, reduced risk of falls, and enhanced quality of life is therefore, not surprisingly, found in older people [ 141 ]. Deterioration in muscle strength, but not muscle mass, increases the risk of premature death [ 142 ] but can be counteracted by exercise as a dose–response relationship describes the strength improvement in the elderly [ 122 , 143 ]. Recommendations state high-intensity strength training (6–8 repetitions at 80% of 1-repetition maximum) as most effective [ 144 ]. Muscle strengthening physical activity for better health is recommended as a complement to aerobic physical activity [ 29 ]. Amongst the elderly, vibration training can be an alternative to increase strength [ 145 ].

5.2. Effects on Mental Health

Mental illness is a global problem affecting millions of people worldwide [ 147 ]. Headache, stress, insomnia, fatigue, and anxiety are all measures of mental ill health. The term “ ill health ” constitutes a collection of several mental health problems and symptoms with various levels of seriousness. Studies have compared expected health benefits from regular physical activity for improvement of mental health with other treatments, for example, medication. Most recent studies show that physical activity and exercise used as a primary, or secondary, processing method have significant positive effects in preventing or alleviating depressive symptoms [ 31 , 148 , 149 , 150 , 151 ] and have an antidepressant effect in people with neurological diseases [ 152 ]. Training and exercise improve the quality of life and coping with stress and strengthen self-esteem and social skills [ 69 , 153 ]. Training and exercise also lessen anxiety in people who are diagnosed with an anxiety- or stress-related disease [ 68 ], improve vocabulary learning [ 154 ], memory [ 155 , 156 ], and creative thinking [ 157 ].

The same Swedish data as used in Figure 1 show that between the years 2004–2007 and 2012–2015 anxiety, worry, and insomnia decreased but were not obviously correlated to the slightly increased level of physical activity in the population during the same period. Thus, in a multifactorial context, the importance of physical exercise alone cannot be demonstrated in this dataset.

Some of the suggested physiological explanations for improved mental health with physical activity and exercise are greater perfusion and increased brain volume [ 107 , 158 ], increased volume of the hippocampus [ 106 ], and the anti-inflammatory effects of physical activity, reducing brain inflammation in neurological diseases [ 159 ]. Physical exercise may also mediate resilience to stress-induced depression via skeletal muscle peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha (PGC-1α), enhancing kynurenine conversion to kynurenine acid, which in turn protects the brain and reduces the risk for stress-induced depression [ 153 ]. Further, increased release of growth factors, endorphins, and signaling molecules are other exercise-induced enhancers of mental health [ 69 ].

6. How Sport Affects Health

Sport’s main purposes are to promote physical activity and improve motor skills for health and performance and psychosocial development [ 56 ]. Participants also gain a chance to be part of a community, develop new social circles, and create social norms and attitudes. In healthy individuals, and patients with mental illness, sport participation has been shown to provide individuals with a sense of meaning, identity, and belonging [ 160 , 161 ]. Whether the sport movement exists or not, training and competition including physical activity will happen. Sport’s added values, in addition to the health benefits of physical activity, are therefore of interest. Some argue that it is doubtful, or at least not confirmed, that health development can come from sport, while others believe that healthy sport is something other than health, reviewed in depth by Coakley [ 162 ]. In a sporting context, health is defined as subjective (e.g., one feels good), biological (e.g., not being sick), functional (e.g., to perform), and social (e.g., to collaborate) [ 163 ]. Holt [ 56 ] argued that the environment for positive development in young people is distinctly different from an environment for performance, as the latter is based on being measured and assessed. That said, certain skills (goal setting, leadership, etc.) can be transferred from a sporting environment to other areas of life. The best way to transfer these abilities is, at the moment, unclear.

Having the goal to win at all costs can be detrimental to health. This is especially true for children and adolescents, as early engagement in elite sports increases the risk of injury, promotes one-dimensional functional development, leads to overtraining, creates distorted social norms, risks psychosocial disorders, and has the risk of physical and psychological abuse [ 15 , 164 ]. Of great importance, therefore, is sport’s goal of healthy performance development, starting at an early age. For older people, a strong motivating factor to conduct physical activity is sports club membership [ 165 ]. One can summarize these findings by stating sport’s utility at the transition between different stages of the life; from youth to adulthood and from adulthood to old age. There, sports can be a resource for good physical and mental health [ 166 ].

Today, a higher proportion of the population, compared to 50 years ago, is engaged in organized sports, and to a lesser extent performs spontaneous sports ( Figure 3 ), something that Engström showed in 2004 [ 17 ] and is confirmed by data from The Swedish Sports Confederation ( www.rf.se ). Of the surveyed individuals in 2001, 50%–60% of children and young people said they were active in a sports club. The trend has continued showing similar progression to 2011, with up to 70% of school students playing sports in a club. Furthermore, the study shows that those active in sport clubs also spontaneously do more sports [ 167 ]. Similar data from the years 2007–2018, compiled from open sources at The Swedish Sports Confederation, confirm the trend with an even higher share of youths participating in organized sports, compared to 1968 and 2001 ( Figure 4 ).

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Spontaneous sport has decreased over the last decades, to the advantage of organized sport. Data compiled from Engström, 2004, The Swedish Research Council for Sport Science.

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Data compiled from open sources report Sport Statistics (Idrotten i siffror) at The Swedish Sports Confederation for the year 2011 ( www.rf.se ).

Taking part in sports can be an important motivator for physical activity for older people [ 165 , 166 ]. With aging, both participation in sports ( Figure 4 ) and physical activity in everyday life [ 168 ] decreases. At the same time, the number of people who are physically active both in leisure and in organized sports increases (The Public Health Agency of Sweden 2017; www.folkhalsomyndigheten.se ). Consequently, among elderly people, a greater proportion of the physical activity occurs within the context of sport [ 8 , 28 ]. Together, research shows that organized sports, in clubs or companies, are more important for people’s overall physical activity than ever before. Groups that are usually less physically active can be motivated through sport—for example, elderly men in sport supporters’ clubs [ 169 ], people in rural areas [ 170 ], migrants [ 171 ], and people with alternative physical and mental functions [ 172 ]. No matter how you get your sporting interest, it is important to establish a physical foundation at an early age to live in good health when you get older ( Figure 5 ). As seen in Figure 5 , a greater sport habitus at age 15 results in higher physical activity at 53 years of age. Early training and exposure to various forms of sports are therefore of great importance. Participation creates an identity, setting the stage for a high degree of physical activity later in life [ 173 ].

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Odds ratio (OR) of physical activity at age 53 in relation to Sport habitus at age 15. Sport habitus (“the total physical capital"), including cultural capital, athletic diversity, and grades in physical education and health are, according to Engström [ 173 ], the factors most important for being physically active in later life. For a further discussion on sport habitus, the readers are referred to Engström, 2008 [ 173 ]. Numbers above bar show the 95% confidence interval. ** = significant difference from “Very low”, p < 0.01. *** = p < 0.001.

7. Sport’s Effects on the Health of Children and Young People

The effects of participation in organized sports for children and young people are directly linked to physical activity, with long term secondary effects; an active lifestyle at a young age fosters a more active lifestyle as an adult. As many diseases that are positively affected by physical activity/exercise appear later in life, continued participation in sport as an adult will reduce morbidity and mortality.

It must be emphasized that good physical and mental health of children and young people participating in sport requires knowledge and organization based on everyone’s participation. Early specialization counteracts, in all regards, both health and performance development [ 174 , 175 ].

7.1. Positive Aspects

According to several reviews, there is a correlation between high daily physical activity in children and a low risk for obesity, improved development of motor and cognitive skills, as well as a stronger skeleton [ 176 , 177 ]. Positive effects on lipidemia, blood pressure, oxygen consumption, body composition, metabolic syndrome, bone density and depression, increased muscle strength, and reduced damage to the skeleton and muscles are also described [ 178 , 179 ]. If many aspects are merged in a multidimensional analysis [ 8 , 173 ], the factors important for future good health are shown to be training in sports, broad exposure to different sports, high school grades, cultural capital, and that one takes part in sport throughout childhood ( Table 4 ).

Compiled health profiles for men and women at the age of 20 years, depending on participation in organized sports at the age of 5, 7, 8, 10, 14, and 17 years.

Classification with repeated latent class analysis creates three groups for girls and boys, respectively: Children who never participated (girls only), participated, quit prematurely, or began late (only boys) in sports. Arrows indicate whether participation in sports at young age has an effect on health at 20 years of age. Green up arrow is positive, red down arrow negative, and a horizontal black double arrow shows that sport had no significant effect. Modified from Howie et. al., 2016 [ 8 ].

Psychological benefits of sports participation of young people were compiled by Eime et al. [ 1 ], where the conclusion was that sporting children have better self-esteem, less depression, and better overall psychosocial health. One problem with most of these studies, though, is that they are cross-sectional studies, which means that no cause–effect relationship can be determined. As there is a bias for participating children towards coming from socially secure environments, the results may be somewhat skewed.

7.2. Negative Aspects

As Table 4 and Table 5 show, there are both positive and negative aspects of sports. Within children’s and youth sports, early specialization to a specific sport is a common phenomenon [ 175 ]. There is no scientific evidence that early specialization would have positive impact, neither for health nor for performance later in life [ 175 ]. No model or method including performance at a young age can predict elite performance as an adult. By contrast, specialization and competitiveness can lead to injury, overtraining, increased psychological stress, and reduced training motivation, just to mention a few amongst many negative aspects [ 174 , 175 ]. Another important aspect is that those who are excluded from sports feel mentally worse [ 8 ]. As there is a relationship between depressive episodes in adolescence, and depression as adults [ 116 ], early exclusion has far-reaching consequences. Therefore, sports for children and young people have future health benefits by reducing the risk of developing depression and depressive symptoms, as well as improved wellbeing throughout life.

Positive and negative aspects with sport (at young age).

While some degree of sport specialization is necessary to develop elite-level athletes, research shows clear adverse health effects of early specialization and talent selection [ 180 ]. More children born during the fall and winter (September–December) are excluded [ 181 ], and as a group, they are less physically active than spring (January–April) children, both in sports and leisure ( Figure 6 ). In most sports and in most countries, there is a skewed distribution of participants when sorted by birth-date, and there are more spring children than fall children among those who are involved in sport [ 182 , 183 , 184 , 185 , 186 ]. Because a large part of the physical activity takes place in an organized form, this leads to lower levels of physical activity for late-born persons (Malm, Jakobsson, and Julin, unpublished data). Early orientation and training in physical activity and exercise will determine how active you are later in life. Greater attention must be given to stimulating as many children and young people as possible to participate in sport as long as possible, both in school and on their leisure time. According to statistics from the Swedish Sports Confederation in 2016, this relative-age effect persists throughout life, despite more starting than ending with sport each year [ 18 ].

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The figure shows the distribution of 7597 children aged 10 years and younger who in 2014 were registered as active in one particular, individual sport in Sweden (data compiled from the Swedish Sport Confederation, www.rf.se ). Spring, Summer, and Fall represent January–April, May–August, and September–December, respectively.

When summarize, the positive and negative aspects of sport at a young age can be divided into three categories: (1) Personal identification, (2) social competence, and (3) physiological capacity, briefly summarized in Table 5 . A comprehensive analysis of what is now popularly known as “physical literacy” has recently been published [ 187 ].

7.3. Relevance of Sports

Sports can make children and young people develop both physically and mentally and contribute with health benefits if planned and executed exercise/training considers the person’s own capacities, social situation, and biological as well as psychological maturation. In children and adolescents, it is especially important to prevent sports-related injuries and health problems, as a number of these problems are likely to remain long into adulthood, sometimes for life. Comprehensive training is recommended, which does not necessarily mean that you have to participate in various sports. What is required is diverse training within every sport and club. Research shows that participation in various sports simultaneously during childhood and adolescence is most favorable for healthy and lifelong participation [ 8 , 173 , 188 , 189 ].

8. Sport’s Effects on the Health of Adults and the Elderly

Adults who stop participating in sports reduce their physical activity and have health risks equal to people who have neither done sports nor been physical [ 190 , 191 ]. Lack of adherence to exercise programs is a significant hindrance in achieving health goals and general physical activity recommendations in adults and the elderly [ 192 ]. While several socioeconomic factors are related to exercise adherence, it is imperative that trainers and health care providers are informed about factors that can be modulated, such as intervention intensity (not to high), duration (not too long), and supervision, important for higher adherence, addressed more in depth by Rivera-Torres, Fahey and Rivera [ 192 ].

Healthy aging is dependent on many factors, such as the absence of disease, good physical and mental health, and social commitment (especially through team sports or group activities) [ 193 ]. Increased morbidity with age may be partly linked to decreased physical activity. Thus, remaining or becoming active later in life is strongly associated with healthy aging [ 194 ]. With increased age, there is less involvement in training and competition ( Figure 4 ), and only 20% of adults in Sweden are active, at least to some extent, in sports clubs, and the largest proportion of adults who exercise do it on their own. The following sections describes effects beyond what is already provided for children and youths.

8.1. Positive Aspects

Participation in sports, with or without competition, promotes healthy behavior and a better quality of life [ 166 ]. Exclusion from sports at a young age appears to have long-term consequences, as the previously described relative age effect ( Figure 6 ) remains even for master athletes (Malm, Jakobsson, and Julin, unpublished data). Because master athletes show better health than their peers [ 95 ], actions should be taken to include adults and elderly individuals who earlier in life were excluded from, or never started with sport [ 195 ]. As we age, physical activity at a health-enhancing intensity is not enough to maintain all functions. Higher intensity is required, best comprising competition-oriented training [ 196 , 197 ]. One should not assume that high-intensity exercise cannot be initiated by the elderly [ 198 ]. Competitive sports, or training like a competitive athlete as an adult, can be one important factor to counter the loss of physical ability with aging [ 199 ]. In this context, golf can be one example of a safe form of exercise with high adherence for older adults and the elderly, resulting in increased aerobic performance, metabolic function, and trunk strength [ 200 , 201 ].

8.2. Negative Aspects

Increased morbidity (e.g., cardiovascular disease) with aging is seen also among older athletes [ 202 ] and is associated with the same risk factors as in the general population [ 203 ]. An increased risk of cardiovascular disease among adults (master) compared to other populations has been found [ 204 ]. Unfortunately, the designs and interpretations of these studies have been criticized, and the incidence of cardiac arrest in older athletes is unclear [ 205 ]. In this context, the difference between competitive sports aiming to optimize performance and recreational sports has to be taken into account, where the former is more likely to induce negative effects due to high training loads and/or impacts during training and games. Although high-intensity training even for older athletes is positive for aerobic performance, it does not prevent the loss of motor units [ 206 ].

Quality of life is higher in sporting adults compared to those who do not play sports, but so is the risk of injury. When hit by injury, adults and young alike may suffer from psychological disorders such as depression [ 207 ], but with a longer recovery time in older individuals [ 208 ]. As with young athletes, secession of training at age 50 years and above reduces blood flow in the brain, including the hippocampus, possibly related to long-term decline in mental capacity [ 209 ].

8.3. Relevance of Sport

As for children and young people, many positive health aspects come through sport also for adults and the elderly [ 210 ]. Sport builds bridges between generations, a potential but not elucidated drive for adults’ motivation for physical activity. The percentage of adults participating in competitive sports has increased in Sweden since 2010, from about 20 percent to 30 percent of all of those who are physically active [ 18 ], a trend that most likely provides better health for the group in the 30–40 age group and generations to come.

9. Recommendations for Healthy Sport

  • 1. Plan exercise, rest, and social life. For health-promoting and healthy-aging physical activity, refer to general guidelines summarized in this paper: Aerobic exercise three times a week, muscle-strengthening exercise 2–3 times a week.
  • 2. Set long-term goals.
  • 3. Adopt a holistic performance development including physiological, medical, mental, and psychosocial aspects.
  • ○ a. Exercise load (time, intensity, volume);
  • ○ b. Recovery (sleep, resting heart rate, appetite, estimated fatigue, etc.);
  • ○ c. Sickness (when–where–how, type of infections, how long one is ill, etc.);
  • ○ d. Repeat type- and age-specific physical tests with relevant evaluation and feedback;
  • ○ e. Frequency of injuries and causes.
  • ○ a. Motivation for training, competition, and socializing;
  • ○ b. Personal perception of stress, anxiety, depression, alienation, and self-belief;
  • ○ c. Repeat type- and age-specific psychological tests with relevant evaluation and feedback.
  • 6. Register and interpret signs of overtraining, such as reduced performance over time, while maintaining or increasing exercise load.

Author Contributions

C.M. and A.J. conceived and designed the review. C.M., A.J., J.J. and interpreted the data and drafted the manuscript. J.J. edited the manuscript, tables, and figures. All authors approved the final version.

This work was supported by the Swedish Sports Confederation.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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From the Editors: Why J.J. Watt and José Altuve are SI's 2017 Sportsperson of the Year Honorees

  • Author: The Editors Of Sports Illustrated

Thirty years ago, Sports Illustrated ’s then-managing editor, Mark Mulvoy, always one for surprises, named eight athletes as the franchise’s collective Sportsperson of the Year. A few of them were reasonably well-known, even mildly famous; others might have strained recognition by the more casual fan. But all of these Athletes Who Care, as the package was billed, were household names to some of the neediest and most vulnerable among us. “Sportsperson should always transcend the mere playing of the game,” Mulvoy says. “I hold that sacred. It was a funny year, 1987. There wasn’t really a performer that jumped out. So we thought, Let’s do something on all these athletes who are doing meaningful things, making the world better.”

Mulvoy is inarguably the most ardent, and connected, fan among the nine managing editors that span SI’s 64-year history. But when it came to the franchise’s signature award, off-field sacrifices and charity mattered as much as highlight reels and championship trophies, sometimes even more. “Athletes who care,” says Mulvoy, “is kind of the point of the award in the first place.”


We will remember 2017 as much for what athletes strove to achieve off the field as for what they achieved on it. And that was no small bar to clear. New champions were crowned, notably the Houston Astros , who ended the second-longest World Series drought by winning the first in the franchise’s history, while old champions (the Patriots, the Warriors, the Lynx, the Penguins) solidified their places in the pantheon.

Even in a year of sublime individual performances—Brady and KD, Deshaun and Fed, all of them considered for this award—athletes spoke loudest in their actions and words off the field. Amid the tribal, black-and-white conversations that polarized the country this year, athletes used their platforms to encourage a search for truth in the gray spaces. Not just Colin Kaepernick, the recipient of the third SI Muhammad Ali Legacy Award , but also Maya Moore , the WNBA star who won her 21st championship while lending her voice and face to the activist movement that swept through the nation's stadiums and arenas in the late summer and early fall. They, too, demanded—and received—serious consideration for Sportsperson of the Year.

Colin Kaepernick Is Recipient of 2017 Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award

This issue is intended to celebrate a new generation of athletes who care, in all senses of the word: caring about humanitarian efforts, about social and political justice, about their communities and about their crafts.

Which brings us to the 2017 Sportsperson of the Year honorees, J.J. Watt and José Altuve. By the third week of September, less than a month after Hurricane Harvey had devastated Houston and its surrounding region, Watt had raised more than $37 million in relief aid. The SOTY candidacy of the Texans’ defensive end was unaffected by the gruesome, season-ending leg injury he suffered in Week 5. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year—the best defensive player of his generation, really—could have had the best season of his career, or the worst. His place as a Sportsperson of the Year had already been engraved. “Nothing J.J. Watt has achieved in his career, or might still achieve, will measure up to what he did for Houston,” says MMQB Editor-in-Chief Peter King.


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The 5' 6'' Altuve had his own contribution to Houston’s post-storm recovery. The personal journey of the Astros second baseman is an inspirational one, a classic tale of an underestimated athlete overcoming the longest of odds. And this fall, Altuve was the joyous catalyst for one of the most unlikely World Series runs in recent memory. Championships don’t save communities, and we should be careful to assign too much weight to their powers of healing. But what other event can bring a million-plus people together and provide a platform, however ephemeral, to cast aside the differences that drive so many of us to sports in the first place? “The city of Houston has treated me really good,” Altuve tells Tom Verducci. “I felt at that time that I owed them something. So when they were having a hard time, I wanted to give something back to them.”

The stories of these two athletes who care represent two very different paths, but they led to the same destination: #HoustonStrong. Congratulations to J.J. Watt and José Altuve, our 2017 Sportsperson of the Year honorees.

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What happened to the 4 Black assistant coaches arrested in college corruption probe

Four assistant coaches were arrested in a 2017 FBI probe designed to clean up the pre-NIL college basketball world. All were Black and all are out of the sport, banned by the NCAA. One of the coaches, Book Richardson, spoke to The Associated Press. (AP Video: David R. Martin)

Book Richardson, director of the New York Gauchos boy's basketball program, poses for a portrait at the Gaucho Gym, Monday, March 11, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. Four assistant coaches arrested in a 2017 FBI probe designed to clean up college basketball are Black. All are out of the sport, banned by the NCAA. One coach, Book Richardson, tells The Associated Press he knows why: Because Black assistants were the low-hanging fruit — the ones on the front lines making connections with athletes who go on to play in college.(AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)

Book Richardson, director of the New York Gauchos boy’s basketball program, poses for a portrait at the Gaucho Gym, Monday, March 11, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. Four assistant coaches arrested in a 2017 FBI probe designed to clean up college basketball are Black. All are out of the sport, banned by the NCAA. One coach, Book Richardson, tells The Associated Press he knows why: Because Black assistants were the low-hanging fruit — the ones on the front lines making connections with athletes who go on to play in college.(AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)

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Book Richardson, director of the New York Gauchos boy’s basketball program, speaks with his players in the locker room at the Gaucho Gym, Monday, March 11, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. Four assistant coaches arrested in a 2017 FBI probe designed to clean up college basketball are Black. All are out of the sport, banned by the NCAA. One coach, Book Richardson, tells The Associated Press he knows why: Because Black assistants were the low-hanging fruit — the ones on the front lines making connections with athletes who go on to play in college.(AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)

A look at what happened to the four Black assistant coaches arrested in 2017 as part of the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball:

TONY BLAND — Southern Cal assistant received two years of probation after pleading guilty to a bribery charge. Coached at St. Bernard High School in the LA area. Got the most lenient treatment from the NCAA and could be eligible to work in college again as soon as this month. His head coach, Andy Enfield, who is white, stayed on until this week, when he accepted a new job at SMU.

LAMONT EVANS — Oklahoma State assistant was sentenced to three months in prison for conspiracy to commit bribery. Agreed to pay $22,000. Ten-year ban from NCAA. Now living in Florida. Evans’ boss at OSU, Brad Underwood, who is white, left for a job at Illinois.

CHUCK PERSON — Auburn assistant pleaded guilty to a bribery conspiracy charge. Received two years’ probation and 200 hours community service. Runs developmental basketball program in Atlanta area. 10-year ban from NCAA. His head coach, Bruce Pearl, who is white, is still at Auburn.

EMANUEL “BOOK” RICHARDSON — Arizona assistant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery. Received 90-day jail sentence and paid back $20,000. Now running youth program at New York Gauchos basketball club. 10-year ban from NCAA. His boss, Sean Miller, who is white, was fired but now has head coaches’ job at Xavier.

AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

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Iowa’s Caitlin Clark matches March Madness…

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Iowa’s Caitlin Clark matches March Madness 3-point record with 9 in Elite Eight game against LSU

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) puts up a three-point shot...

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) puts up a three-point shot against LSU during the third quarter of an Elite Eight round college basketball game during the NCAA Tournament, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) reacts after hitting a three-point...

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) reacts after hitting a three-point shot against LSU during the third quarter of an Elite Eight round college basketball game during the NCAA Tournament, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Iowa’s Caitlin Clark tied a women’s NCAA Tournament record Monday night by hitting nine 3-pointers, many from well beyond the arc, in Iowa’s 94-87 win over LSU in the Elite Eight.

Clark made her ninth 3 midway through the fourth quarter, tying the mark set by Purdue’s Courtney Moses in 2012 and later matched by UConn’s Kia Nurse in 2017.

The Iowa star quickly broke a tie with UConn’s Diana Taurasi for career 3-pointers in March Madness with her first one.

When she hit her seventh 3, Clark passed Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson for the most in a career among NCAA Division I players. Clark’s ninth gave her 540.

The senior finished with 41 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. She hit 13 of her 29 shots, was 9 of 20 from behind the arc and was named the region’s most outstanding player.

AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

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Maps of the April 2024 Total Solar Eclipse

By Jonathan Corum

On April 8, the moon will slip between the Earth and the sun, casting a shadow across a swath of North America: a total solar eclipse.

By cosmic coincidence, the moon and the sun appear roughly the same size in the sky. When the moon blocks the glare of the sun, the sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, will be briefly visible.

Below are several maps of the eclipse’s path as well as images of what you might experience during the event.

Where Can I See the Total Eclipse?

The eclipse will begin at sunrise over the Pacific Ocean, then cut through Mexico and cross the United States from Texas to Maine. Most of North America will see a partial eclipse, but viewers within the deepest shadow — a band sliding from Mazatlán, Mexico, to the Newfoundland coast near Gander, Canada — will experience a total solar eclipse.

Percentage of

the sun obscured

during the eclipse


Little Rock

San Antonio

Viewers inside the path of the total eclipse may notice a drop in temperature , a lull or shift in the wind , the appearance of bright planets in the sky, and the quieting of birds and other wildlife.

Many cities lie inside the path of the total eclipse, as shown below, the width of which varies from 108 miles to 122 miles.

5:13 p.m. NDT

20% partial eclipse




4:33 p.m. ADT

3:26 p.m. EDT

3:20 p.m. EDT


3:18 p.m. EDT

3:13 p.m. EDT

San Francisco

90% partial eclipse

3:05 p.m. EDT

Los Angeles

1:51 p.m. CDT

1:40 p.m. CDT

1:33 p.m. CDT

12:16 p.m. CST

12:12 p.m. CST

11:07 a.m. MST

Mexico City


12:23 p.m. CST

1:36 p.m. CDT

3:09 p.m. EDT

3:27 p.m. EDT

Explore our interactive cloud outlook for eclipse viewing times and average cloud data at your location.

What Will I See?

A composite image of the 2017 total solar eclipse over Madras, Ore.

A composite image of the 2017 solar eclipse over Madras, Ore.

Aubrey Gemignani/NASA

If the sky is clear, viewers in the path of the total eclipse should see a “diamond ring” effect a few seconds before and after the total eclipse, as the edge of the sun slips in and out of view.

The sun’s corona during the 2017 total solar eclipse.

The “diamond ring” effect during the 2017 solar eclipse.

Rami Daud/NASA, Alcyon Technical Services

The sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, is normally hidden by the sun’s glare. These tendrils and sheets of gas, heated to a million degrees Fahrenheit or more, are in constant motion and shaped by the sun’s swirling magnetic field.

The sun’s corona during the 2017 total solar eclipse.

The sun’s corona during the 2017 solar eclipse.

The sun is relatively active this year and is nearing the expected peak of its 11-year solar cycle . Researchers at Predictive Science are using data about the sun’s magnetic field to predict and model a dramatic corona for the April eclipse.

A prediction of how the sun’s corona might appear on April 8.

A prediction of how the sun’s corona might appear during the April 8 total eclipse.

Predictive Science

What Colors Should I Wear?

As the sky darkens, light-sensitive cells in human eyes become more sensitive to blue and green hues than to reds and oranges. This shift in color perception is known as the Purkinje effect , after a 19th-century Czech scientist, and is typically seen at twilight.

People watch the 2017 total eclipse at Southern Illinois University.

Watching the 2017 total eclipse at Southern Illinois University.

Andrea Morales for The New York Times

To take advantage of the Purkinje effect, wear green clothes or a contrasting combination of greens and reds. Blue-green colors (shorter wavelengths) will appear brighter, while red colors (longer wavelengths) will appear to recede into the darkness.

What If I Miss It?

The next two total solar eclipses in the United States won’t occur until 2044 and 2045 . But eclipse chasers might catch one in 2026 in Greenland, Iceland and Spain; 2027 along the coast of Northern Africa; 2028 in Australia and New Zealand; or 2030 across Southern Africa and Australia.

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A Total Solar Eclipse Is Coming. Here’s What You Need to Know.

These are answers to common questions about the April 8 eclipse, and we’re offering you a place to pose more of them.

By Katrina Miller

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What’s the Cloud Forecast for Eclipse Day? See if the Weather Is on Your Side.

April 8 could be your best opportunity to see a total solar eclipse for decades. But if clouds fill the sky, you may miss the spectacle.

By Josh Katz, K.K. Rebecca Lai and William B. Davis

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