Forget about those reports that hail gym class as a savior in the war against childhood obesity. According to a new study, injuries to American children enrolled in school physical education classes increased by 150 percent from 1997-2007.
Interestingly, the reason for the dramatically high number of injuries is not due to schools instituting vigorous exercise regimes; rather the study claims lack of adult supervision is to blame. The study’s lead author notes that lively gym programs are commendable; however, a decline in school nurses and larger class sizes have the potential to negate benefits gained through rigorous P.E. classes.
According to the study, students got hurt by “running into equipment or having contact with structures or other persons.” In addition, kids suffered heat stroke, fainting and heart palpitations when they were not properly supervised. The study also found that boys sustained more cuts and broken bones than girls and girls were more likely to suffer strains and sprains. The bottom line according to researchers: “Being healthy doesn’t have to hurt.”
The study’s author suggested that schools renew their efforts to make gym class safer and noted a glaring concern that some school districts don’t require teachers to be certified to teach physical education, particularly at the elementary school level.
“Classroom teachers who aren’t trained in P.E. might not recognize situations that can cause injury,” the study’s author said. “Certified physical education teachers know where to position themselves, the amount of space children need around them for activities and proper warm-up exercises.”
Researchers are hoping the federal Healthy People 2010 initiative will help improve gym programs in schools across the nation. The program is designed to support proper physical education, but not all schools comply because the policies aren’t usually accompanied by funding to support them.
Has your child ever suffered an injury during gym class?