Young adults playing handball

How mixed-sex team games could reduce physical education injuries

Mixed-sex team games such as korfball and handball are examples of sports that can be taught in secondary schools without the need for physical contact, says a University of Brighton academic.

Dr Gary Stidder of the School of Sport and Service Management put forward this notion in the light of recent research into the safety and wellbeing of pupils in physical education school lessons.

A range of modified team games designed to eliminate direct contact with opponents have recently been introduced to PGCE and School Direct trainee teachers of physical education.

Dr Stidder believes that these new team games are timely, and will help to bring about a shift in the way that pupils in schools view sport. He said: “Physical education is not synonymous with sport. They are two completely different things.”

Dr Stidder added: “Many pupils in physical education lessons fear the possibility of direct contact and being injured in certain team games that involve physical contact.

“There is currently a debate in the physical education profession as to whether tackling should be banned in high-impact collision sports such as rugby union and rugby league in PE lessons, due to the increasing numbers of pupils suffering from concussion injuries to the head.

“PE lessons can be modified so the focus might be on teaching and learning the principals of rugby by using tag belts, for example, which can also have the benefit of mixed-sex participation.”

A recent report also found there was a significant correlation between association football and dementia cases and brain injuries, prompting calls for a ban on heading in football particularly at youth level, as is the case in the United States.

An overemphasis on competition in sport may also discourage young people from participating, added Dr Stidder. “Recently there have been news stories related to overzealous fathers who were subjecting children to the so-called benefits of ‘healthy competition’ in sport,” he said.

“I have heard some parents suggest that competitive sports such as rugby is the last area of activity where little boys can behave like little boys used to, free from counsellors on the touchline asking them how they feel about being tackled.

“This is a completely ridiculous suggestion. As any educator, my view is that in the right hands with professionally trained PE teachers, carefully managed competition can be a very valuable educational tool. In the wrong hands it can cause life-changing injuries and irreversible damage with respect to attitudes towards participation.”

photo of students playing handball