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Funding, Teacher Quality May Hold Key to Reducing Student Injuries

By Kevin Hart

For years, the National Education Association has warned that a failure to fully fund public education can have far-reaching consequences. Cuts to education budgets can affect everything from class size to teacher quality, and student achievement may suffer.

But a new study is raising the possibility that the consequences of inadequate funding also may put student health and safety at risk.

According to a study to be published in the September issue of Pediatrics, injuries sustained during physical education classes increased dramatically from 1997-2007, and experts are speculating that some of the common symptoms of inadequate school funding may have played a role.

The study authors analyzed injury reports from 100 hospitals over the 11-year period and projected that injuries suffered in physical education classes had ballooned from less than 30,000 in 1997 to more than 60,000 in 2007.

The authors claim it’s unlikely that the increase was caused by more students participating in physical education classes – so what exactly changed during those 11 years?

Lara McKenzie, a senior author of the study and a principal investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, told the Associated Press that a lack of school nurses and overcrowded classes could be to blame for the growing injury rate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends one school nurse for every 750 students, but most public schools are missing that mark. And class sizes have increased in districts throughout the country over the past several years, as states have looked to shore up budgets by under-funding education.

Cheryl Richardson, a spokesperson for the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, added in the AP article that some schools are allowing uncertified teachers to teach physical education classes, and that those teachers are often not trained to recognize situations that present a high risk for injury.

By contrast, certified physical education teachers have received extensive instruction in injury prevention techniques, such as maintaining adequate spacing between students and beginning classes with proper warm-up exercises. The National Education Association believes all teachers should be subjected to strict licensing requirements for the subject areas in which they teach.

A correlation between education funding and student injuries was beyond the scope of the Pediatrics study. However, the research raises the question of whether thousands of injuries suffered in physical education classes each year might be prevented through adequate funding and greater attention to teacher quality.  


Abstract on Phys Ed Injuries from Pediatrics