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Gym Class Injuries Sending More Kids to the ER

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

Children these days are more likely to get hurt in gym class than they were a decade ago, a new study published in Pediatrics shows.

A lack of supervision and school nurses may be part of the reason behind a 150% jump in physical education (PE)-related injuries treated at emergency departments between 1997 and 2007, said Dr. Lara McKenzie of National Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, the lead researcher on the study.

But whatever the cause behind the trend, McKenzie was quick to add, the benefits of participating in PE far outweigh any risks.

Researchers examined data from the US Consumer Products Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which tracks sports and recreation-related injuries treated at a nationally representative sample of about 100 US hospital emergency departments.

While the system reported an estimated 24,347 physical education-related injuries in 1997, there were 62,408 in 2007. The increase was seen for both boys and girls and across all age groups. About one in five of the injuries were strains or sprains of the legs, while about one in seven were broken arms, or arm sprains or strains. Six sports accounted for 70% of injuries: running, basketball, football, volleyball, soccer, and gymnastics.

The study didn’t look at why physical education injuries had increased. But researchers say it may be because fewer schools have full-time nurses on staff to help hurt kids. Schools may also be packing more kids into gym classes, making it harder for teachers to supervise them, McKenzie added. Just 36% of schools that require PE classes set a maximum student/teacher ratio, McKenzie and her colleagues note in their report.

That means that “more equipment, more gym teachers, more training, more nurses–all of those may be beneficial to help reduce PE injuries,” she said.

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