New research related to children’s physical activity levels suggests that less active children are at greater risk of injury during traditional school yard ‘play’.
The research coincides with the recent release of new Australian physical activity guidelines which for the first time included a recommendation that children limit screen time for entertainment purposes to no more than two hours per day.
The study, set to appear in the upcoming edition of the Journal of Sports Medicine and Science, published by Sports Medicine Australia, examines different measures to reduce the injury risk of children during physical education, ‘play’ and commuting activities.
Lead author Professor Evert Verhagen said the researchers decided on this study following a marked increase in arm and wrist fractures among primary school aged children.
“This rise in injuries appears to correlate to a decrease in physical activity and motor skills,” Professor Verhagen said.
“In simple terms, many children no longer know how to ‘play’.
“While there is and should be a concerted effort to increase activity levels among children, the fact that injuries are common side effects of heightened physical activity is often neglected from a public health view point.
“In most cases the primary target of childhood physical activity interventions – those who are not active – have the highest risk of injury, and often these injuries occur outside of organised sports activities such as in the playground or on the way to school.
“Steps need to be taken to ensure those less active children are still engaged in physical education and prevention programs to help them play safely without injuring themselves.”
The study found that the most effective approach to reduce injury, irrespective of whether it consists of physical measures or preventative exercises, should be free, occur outside the organised sport setting and be incorporated into leisure time physical activity such as during warm-up or play situations.
“For example, children are more likely to use a safety device – such as knee pads or a helmet – when they are presented with a free device and trained on how and why to use it,” Professor Verhagen said.
The study, A systematic review on the effectiveness of school and community based injury prevention programmes on risk behaviour and injury risk in 8-12 year old children , will appear in the upcoming edition of the Journal of Sports Medicine and Science, published by Sports Medicine Australia.
Evert Verhagen is an Adjunct Professor at the Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (ACRISP), Federation University Australia.