Researchers at the University of Michigan have released a study that may alarm some parents. According to the new research, high school students involved in high contact sports are more likely to develop an addiction to prescription painkillers and/or heroin. The reason is due to the high instance of injury, these students are more likely to be prescribed prescription painkillers.

This is especially dangerous because teenagers in high school are not only developing emotionally, but they are still developing physically. The medical community has cautioned that a teenager’s brain has not stopped developing by the time they reach high school. This could make them more susceptible to addiction if they are placed on these powerful painkillers due to a sports-related injury.

In order to arrive at their conclusions, the researchers looked at data from a national study called Monitoring the Future, specifically information gathered from 21,000 high school students between 2006 and 2014. They found that high school seniors who participated in hockey had much higher level of opioid abuse than 12th graders who did not participate in hockey. They attribute this to the fact that hockey has a high rate of injury, often resulting in participants being prescribed painkillers. Early introduction to painkillers can increase the chances that students will seek out recreational use of the medication or resort to heroin use. The study also points out that students participating in weightlifting and wresting also had higher than average rates of opioid abuse.

“The findings provide critical information to inform doctors and parents of the potential risk associated with participating in certain high contact sports and the need to monitor the use and misuse of prescription drugs that have high abuse potential,” explained Philip Veliz, study leader and assistant professor at University of Michigan’s Institute for Women and Gender.

So, what can parents do to prevent their children from abusing prescription painkillers and/or heroin? Researchers point out that parents can be more involved in any doctor visits, perhaps opting for alternative forms of pain management like physical therapy, massage, stretching and over the counter medications.