In this age of tight school budgets, politicians and school administrators are always looking to limit or reduce expenses. And one of their favorite targets when they start swinging the financial ax is physical education.
Not one of the three Rs, nor a glamorous high-tech component of a school’s curriculum, PE seems a relatively painless victim of monetary prudence.
Or so it seems.
A host of recent studies, though, published across a wide spectrum of medical journals indicates that cutting PE classes may be penny wise but definitely is pound foolish.
In fact, in Indiana, where only two semesters are required to graduate from high school, it should be mandated daily in grades K-12, just as in Illinois. As for the Land of Lincoln, the daily mandate needs encouraging, not waiving, as is possible in grades 11 and 12, in particular.
A study published early last month in the journal Pediatrics showed the value of increased muscular strength in middle schoolers. “Greater relative strength and physical activity are strong factors associated with cardiometabolic health among children and this was independent of age, gender, and cardiorespiratory fitness,” concluded the researchers from the University of Michigan and Central Michigan University. “Specifically, boys and girls with greater strength-to-body mass ratios had lower body mass indices, less body fat, smaller waist circumferences, and significantly lower clinical markers of cardiometabolic risk.”
Their work confirms an international association consensus statement published last year in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. In part, it read, “There is now a compelling body of scientific evidence that supports regular participation in youth resistance training." The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association were among U.S. based organizations to endorse the statement.
Those who argue that students need more time in a classroom — rather than a weight room — ignore a volume of research that clearly correlates improved academic performance with increased physical activity.
That increase should not just be mindless iron pumping or pure fun and games. A little purpose will go a long way.
A clinical report published last week in Pediatrics and a series of studies published in the March-April issue of the Journal of Athletic Training demonstrated the value of balance and jump/landing training in the prevention of lower extremity injuries, specifically ankle sprains and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.
The report in Pediatrics also illustrated the devastating results when balance and jump/landing training are neglected. A torn ACL with resultant surgical reconstruction costs $20,000 or more. Later in life, whether reconstructed or not, the affected knee is 10 times more likely to need surgical replacement.
Athletic careers are interrupted for up to a year, often shortened, and sometimes ended by an ACL injury. Adrian Peterson was the exception not the rule. According to the Pediatrics report, “78-91% (of competitive athletes) returned to sports … However, only 44-62% returned to their previous level of athletic performance.”
Better then to prevent the injury altogether with balance and jump/landing training. It is particularly beneficial for girls 18 and under, with a 72% risk reduction for those who follow such a strengthening program before and during a season.
John Doherty is a certified athletic trainer and licensed physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@JDohertyATCPT.