Rough recess: gym class injuries on the rise

August 7, 2009

The number of kids being injured in gym class is on the rise. Why? And how can it be prevented?

Injuries in PE classes across the United States have risen 150% between 1997 and 2007, according to research reported in the September 2009 issue of Pediatrics. McKenzie et al analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance Study of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission of children and adolescents 5 to 18 years old treated at the emergency department (ED) for physical education (PE) class-related injuries.

Researchers speculated that the increase in ED visits is a result of changes in the types and intensity of activities offered in PE classes, in an attempt to overcome childhood obesity; a lack of school nurses to attend to injuries; and fewer certified PE teachers conducting classes. They concluded that more studies are needed to identify the causes of the rise in the number of injuries and to determine appropriate injury prevention solutions and policies. The researchers noted that they used data only about injuries that resulted in ED visits and they may have underestimated the total number of injuries that occur.

Suggestions for preventing school activity injuries:

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children get a thorough physical exam before the start of the school year to make sure they are healthy enough for sports activity. Keep kids active all through the year so that they stay fit and ready for sports in school.
  • The AAP recommends that children be allowed to drink water every 15 minutes when exercising outdoors in temperatures 75°F and above or during times of high humidity. Children should also be allowed rest periods in the shade during prolonged exercise periods.
  • Tell children about the importance of stretching exercises before and after games to increase flexibility and strengthen muscles.
  • Parents should find out what kind of safety gear their children need and make sure it’s in good shape.
  • Teach children about good sportsmanship and following the rules, If a child has aches or pains during activities, he or she should stop.

In addition to sports-related injuries, more than 200,000 children aged 14 and younger are treated in the ED for playground-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Safety Council.

Rules for playing safe.

  • Play on age appropriate equipment
  • Playgrounds should be covered with cushioned material
  • Supervise children
  • Don’t run on concrete surfaces.
  • Hold onto handles and rails when using climbing equipment.
  • Wear sneakers on the playground instead of open-toed shoes or sling-backs.
  • Don’t wear clothing with drawstrings or hoods to avoid getting these caught in the structures.
  • Safety on the swings: don’t walk directly in front of or behind a swing; don’t jump from a moving swing; only one child at a time on a swing; don’t go up the slide the wrong way.