August 3, 2009

Increase In Gym Class Injuries Among Students

A new study shows that injuries to American children during physical education classes increased by 150 percent from 1997-2007, a possible drawback to a movement encouraging more vigorous exercise in schools, The Associated Press reported.

But experts say that may have less to do with lively gym programs than with lack of adult supervision.

The study's senior author Lara McKenzie of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio said a decline in school nurses and larger class sizes could also be to blame.

She said many children got hurt by running into equipment or having contact with structures or other persons, while others had heat stroke, fainting and heart palpitations.

The study said boys had more cuts and broken bones than girls, while girls were more likely to suffer strains and sprains.

McKenzie noted that while the benefits of physical education classes outweigh the risks, being healthy doesn't have to hurt.

The study was based on hospital reports of phys ed injuries and published in the September edition of the journal Pediatrics. It analyzed emergency room reports of P.E.-related injuries in children, ages 5 to 18. The data came from 100 representative U.S. hospitals taking part in surveillance for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

During those 11 years, researchers found nearly 12,000 injuries from those hospitals. They were able to calculate a national estimate of nearly 37,000 annual injuries on average, with fewer than 30,000 in 1997 and climbing to more than 60,000 injuries a year by 2007.

Cheryl Richardson of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education in Reston, Va., said the research suggests schools should renew their efforts to make gym class safer.

However, some school districts don't require teachers to be certified to teach phys ed, particularly at the elementary school level, Richardson noted.

She warned that some classroom teachers who aren't trained in P.E. might not recognize situations that can cause injury.

"Certified physical education teachers know where to position themselves, the amount of space children need around them for activities and proper warm-up exercises," she said.

Richardson said the federal Healthy People 2010 initiative has made improving P.E. programs its goal, which has led to more state policies supporting physical education.

But she said not all schools comply because the policies aren't usually accompanied by funding to support them.

This is the first examination of P.E.-related injuries in a large nationally representative sample, according to the research team.

McKenzie said physical education in schools is one of their main tools to increase physical activity and prevent childhood obesity.


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