The terms 'athlete' and 'jock' are sometimes used interchangeably - especially be people who dislike athletes.   And it's usually negative.   Due to that, only 18 percent of students in a recent study strongly identified with the identity of "jock," while 55 percent strongly identified with the identity of "athlete."   Students were twice as likely to reject the jock label.

But those who prefer the term 'jock' for themselves also have some other common characteristics; involvement in high-status, high-profile sports with rigid adherence to stereotypical expectations of masculinity and a tolerance for risk and health-compromising behaviors such as substance use and unsafe sex.    University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions researcher Kathleen E. Miller, Ph.D., considers jocks as possibly a problematic subset of athletes. 

The practical implications of the findings for health-compromising behaviors are developing ways to help sports participants generate "athlete" rather than "jock" identities. 

Miller's Athletic Involvement Study surveyed 581 college students with histories of organized sports participation to rate how strongly they saw themselves (or believed others saw them) as athletes or as jocks.

Self-identified athletes tended to be task-oriented; they defined sport success in terms of skills development and mastery and the pursuit of personal excellence, Miller found. Jocks were more ego-oriented; they defined sport success by comparing their own performance to that of others. 

Endorsement of stereotypical masculine norms in the study was stronger among jocks than among athletes. Students who identified strongly as jocks were likely to support "masculine" attitudes about violence, sex, winning, dominance and risk-taking; those who identified strongly as athletes supported some of these attitudes (commitment to winning) but actively rejected others ("playboy" attitudes about sex) and were neutral on the rest (propensity for violence, dominance and risk-taking). 

Both sport-related identities were stronger among men than among women. Two thirds (68 percent) of men and 39 percent of women surveyed identified themselves as athletes. Twenty-five percent of men and only eight percent of women identified themselves as jocks. 

These results were published in the Journal of Sport Behavior.