When it comes to young athletes and football, much of the media attention focuses on the risk of concussion.What’s less discussed are the ideas about masculinity that undergird the sport.

Now a special section of the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity attempts to change that.

Published in October, the special section features three articles from researchers based at the University of Indiana who explore various aspects of masculinity among college football players. In the first paper, the researchers find that — contrary to stereotypes — crying can be acceptable behavior for college football players under certain circumstances. The second paper explores the ways that players express emotions and affection toward other men, while the third examines the drive for muscularity among players.

These findings could help psychologists develop interventions to help “normalize” the expression of emotion and reduce players’ aggression — especially helmet-to-helmet hits in which players purposely attempt to give opponents concussions, says journal editor Ronald F. Levant, EdD, a psychology professor at the University of Akron and a past president of APA.

“Football is the poster child for aggressivity,” says Levant. “Studying college football players in relation to their endorsement of various masculinity constructs might help us reduce some of that needless aggression.”

—R.A. Clay