All children should be free to enjoy a high quality physical education, whether at school, or as part of a club or team.
It contributes to a healthy and active lifestyle, improves emotional well-being, and helps children to develop key skills such as leadership, confidence and communication.
There are governing bodies, such as UK Sport, that aim to encourage as many children as possible to get involved in sporting activities. Their intention is to create a new generation of British athletes, one that’s capable of competing at a professional international level.
However, these aims, as well intentioned as they are, need to be achieved within a safe and healthy environment. It’s necessary to identify the facilities and equipment in use within sporting activities and evaluate the potential risk to both participants and spectators.
A thorough risk assessment should identify the following:
- Facilities, equipment and activities involved
- Hazards associated with these facilities, equipment and activities
- People directly or indirectly affected by these hazards
- Levels of risk experienced by those people exposed to the hazards
- Measures required to reduce the risks to acceptable levels
Taking part in sport offers great emotional, social and physical benefits for children. Nobody wants to be side-lined by an injury. Risk assessments can make school sports safe and enjoyable for everyone.
As teachers and coaches, there are simple things we can do to help reduce preventable injuries – so pupils can continue playing the games they love. It’s vital they wear the right gear, whether that’s shin pads, head guards or gum shields. You don’t have to have the latest designer sports clothes, but you do need to think of your safety by having the correct gear.
The suitability of equipment supplied for the children, should be assessed in order to determine whether it operates and complies with the applicable rules and standards. Where necessary, instructions or guidance should be supplied on how equipment should be correctly fitted and safely used, particularly for the inexperienced, who may use the equipment infrequently.
Here are a few tips to help prevent school sporting injuries:
- Children should ALWAYS wear the correct safety gear and equipment
- The playing field or court should be safe, and checked before use
- Teams should be made up of children of similar size, skill level, and physical and emotional maturity
- All children participating should be physically and mentally prepared
- Children practicing a sport should be watched by an adult who enforces the safety rules
- Children should get enough fluids before, during and after sports
My number one piece of advice is that all equipment should be inspected on a regular basis, subjected to routine maintenance and, when necessary, it should be replaced.
Daniel Goddard is Manager of Stadia Sports.