It has caused sport to “lose its core values” and lose its original intention as a “picture of life”.
In a talk in Trinity College Dublin that focused on the well-being of young people, Hook also underlined the dangers of over-physicality in his own sport – rugby.
Rugby is now “similarly gladiatorial to the sports in Ancient Rome” but while top professionals were being paid large sums for their bravery, young people are playing the exact same game for nothing but “hard knocks to the head”.
This comes in the light of the retirement of Leinster’s Kevin McLaughlin due to head injuries last month.
Concussion is now an issue at the forefront of rugby and studies show that people under the age of 18 are particularly susceptible to long-term damage.
The RTÉ pundit warned that we cannot visibly see the impact of brain damage and used the example of American football and the long-term suffering of victims of head injuries there.
The use of creatine by secondary school students in Leinster Schools was highlighted as a major example of teams doing anything that they can to win.
Hook pointed to the case of one front row prop in a match who bulked up so much that he weighed more than any player on the current New Zealand rugby team.
Rugby players in general were two stone heavier than they had been before the introduction of professionalism and this has led to an increased risk of serious injury.
Tendons and muscles are unprepared to deal with the physical strain of extra weight and “nothing is being done about it”.
Hook bemoaned a game that was more interested in acts of physical prowess such as rucking, rather than the original principles of the game, like the evasion of opponents with skill.
He blamed television for this phenomenon as it had made sport into “Nero’s bread and circus” – a spectacle that centred on viewing figures rather than the well-being of the players involved.
Bringing it back to young people, who have always been at the “centre of sport”, he said that unethical moments were now broadcast for them to see, unlike moments in the past. This has made a negative impression on children, who generally act like their role models.
Hook’s speech was part of a number of lectures in an “Ethics and Sport” conference in the Trinity Long Room Hub.
Other notable speakers included GAA pundit Joe Brolly, footballer Karol Mannion and GAA’s Community and Health Manager Colin Regan.
Brolly was in agreement that “winning at all costs” was causing a destruction of sport’s ethics. He said that his own sport GAA “used to be part of a healthy balanced lifestyle, but is now as depressing as watching a child in a beauty pageant”.
Colin Regan was more optimistic about the future of ethics in sport, saying that sport brought the greatest values in life to the field of play.