A new pediatric study has shown that children these days are more likely to get injured in gym class than they were a decade ago. Dr. Lara McKenzie of National Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, the lead researcher on the study, suggests the reason for this 150% increase in physical education (PE)- related injuries treated at emergency departments from 1997-2007 could be a lack of supervision a decrease in full- time school nurses, and a change in the PE curriculum.
Because schools have reduced the numbers of full-time nurses on staff, injured children must now go to the hospital to see what is wrong. Schools may also be packing too many students into classes; for instance, just 36% of the schools that require PE set a maximum student/teacher ratio. Finally, the PE curriculum has shifted from the traditional team sports to fitness activities that students can pursue throughout their lifetime, such as biking and rock climbing. However, McKenzie is quick to add the benefits of PE far outweigh the risks of children developing a lifestyle that encourages obesity. She claims more gym teachers, more training, more nurses and more equipment could solve the injury increase.
McKenzie and her research team looked at data from the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission’ National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which tracks recreation and sports-related injuries that are treated at a nationally representative sample of about 100 US hospital emergency departments. While the system reported about 24,347 PE-related injuries in 1997, it reported there were about 62,408 only a decade later; the increase was seen in both girls and boys across all age groups.
About one in five injuries were strains or sprains of the leg, while about one in seven were broken arms, or arm sprains or strains. About 70% of the injuries were related to six sports: soccer, basketball, running, football, volleyball, and gymnastics. Another recent look at the agency’s data showed cheerleading is the sport that causes the most catastrophic injuries, or those usually resulting in spinal cord damage, among high school and college students; high school cheerleading accounted for seventy-three such incidents.