Study: Does Dodgeball Do Lasting Damage?

New research reveals the game’s psychological effects

Dodgeball
A game of dodgeball in Pittsburgh, PA
Joey Gannon/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / June 9, 2019 11:03 am

Do you have memories of playing dodgeball as a kid? More specifically, do you have happy memories of playing dodgeball as a kid? That’s probably a rhetorical question: dodgeball is the kind of gym class activity from which painful and embarrassing memories that last a lifetime are forged.

The results of a new scientific study have advanced the debate over dodgeball. More specifically, there’s now scientific evidence of the ominous implications of the game.

The Washington Post reports that a trio of academics from Canadian universities recently presented this argument at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Vancouver, with a paper to follow. Their conclusion? “Dodgeball in phys-ed classes teaches students to dehumanize and harm their peers.”

One of their findings also confirms something many have suspected:

Researchers set out to interview middle-school-age students about broader questions in physical education courses, but kept hearing the same thing from certain students: They hated dodgeball.

The academics went on to connect dodgeball to the late political theorist Iris Marion Young’s concept of the “Five Faces of Oppression.” Does dodgeball contain within it the seeds for something more sinister in its implications? This study certainly suggests that it does.

Given that dodgeball’s present cultural legacy primarily involves a 2004 comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller which opened to uneven reviews, this study leaves readers with much to ponder. Hopefully, we won’t have to do so with people throwing rubber balls at us in a large gymnasium.

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