On the meaning of sports: Cross cultural observations of super stress

Chester M. Pierce, Verner Stillner, Michael Popkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The definition of sports medicine indicates the possible therapeutic and research importance of games in the work of social scientists and clinicians. A cross-cultural comparison of super stressful competitions provides one insight into the importance of games in human societies. Fourteen such comparisons are made between Indians in Mexico who run 250-mile foot races and Americans in Alaska who conduct 1049-mile dog sled races. It is concluded that sports can help understand how a society defines itself and regulates violence. Games may be an essential 'human-specific' need which provide entertainment, retain survival skills, ameliorate existential anxiety and promote religious and/or secular socialization. In this study, humans seem willing, if not insistent, to deploy considerable resources of time and material to sustain competitions among their own species, as well as between and with other species. A 'sports history' is important for all individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-28
Number of pages18
JournalCulture, Medicine and Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 1982


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