School playgrounds are danger zones for injuries

Almost one-fifth of childhood injuries occur at school, most often while kids are playing or taking part in informal sports, say researchers, who suggest more adult supervision may be needed to better safeguard children’s health, reported The Canadian Press Feb. 19 in an article published in The Globe and Mail, Hamilton Spectator and other dailies in Ontario and British Columbia.

The one-year study analyzed childhood injury statistics from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and six other Ottawa-area emergency departments or clinics. It found that 4,287 children were hurt at school in 2002, representing 18 per cent of all kids injured.  

"I think what’s important to remember is these aren’t little bumps on the head that they went to the office to get ice and a Band-Aid," said senior author Alison Macpherson, a professor at York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science. "These children actually went to seek medical care at an urgent-care centre or a hospital."  

The joint study by York and the University of Ottawa found that 58 per cent of school injuries occurred while children were playing or engaging in informal sports. "That’s a new finding and that’s quite important," Macpherson said. "So it’s not kids who are in gym class or doing something else. They’re on the playground, they’re playing, they’re having fun."  

About 10 per cent of the school-based harms that sent kids to hospital emergency departments were head injuries – everything from bad bumps to concussions. Of the 402 head injuries, seven required admission to hospital. More than 1,100 of the total school-based injuries, or 26 per cent, involved fractures. 

"We’re not talking spinal cord injuries, which are the most severe, but we are talking injuries that require treatment," Macpherson said. "When a mom or a dad sends their child off to school in the morning, they kind of expect them to come home healthy and in one piece. It’s a bit of a surprise to have them end up in the emergency department when they’re going to school, which is what children do every day."

Data for the study, published in this month’s issue of the Journal of School Health, were collected by doctors in Ottawa-area hospital emergency departments and urgent-care clinics through the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program.  

Boys were hurt more often than girls (about 60 per cent compared with 40 per cent) and suffered a significantly higher proportion of head injuries. "Children between the ages of 10 and 14 are the most frequently injured, which means that programs directed toward preventing injuries at school should be designed largely for elementary schools," Macpherson said.  

School boards across the country may want to look at increasing supervision when kids are out in the schoolyard, but another area to consider is the safety of the environment in which they play, she said. "Earlier research has shown that installing safety-conscious playground equipment substantially decreases the rate of injury."  

For instance, children who fall off monkey bars or a slide onto a soft surface are less likely to be seriously hurt than those who drop onto a hard surface; a child who trips or runs into a plastic or cushioned goalpost would suffer less harm than one who smacked into a metal post, she added.  

But nothing in the study suggests that kids should be kept indoors or not allowed to play, the authors stress. "We are not saying that children shouldn’t run or fall or play or be active," Macpherson said. "It’s really critical to children’s development to do all of those things. What we’re saying is they should do it in the most environmentally safe context that’s possible and reasonable." 

  • The study was also mentioned on “Breakfast Television” (Citytv) and CHFI-FM “News” in Toronto Feb. 19. 

York women dominate volleyball awards, all-star picks

York University’s women’s volleyball team, with an 18-1 regular-season record, grabbed three top OUA East Division awards and three first-team all-star picks Wednesday, reported the Toronto Star Feb. 18.  

Scarborough’s Thinesa Sriskandarajah, a left-side hitter, was named rookie of the year, finishing second in the league with 3.38 kills per set for a total of 203 on the season. She also had 20 service aces, 12 blocks and 127 digs. Brampton’s Antonia Stathakos was picked as libero of the year while Arif Nathoo got the nod as coach of the year.  

Sriskandarajah, also on the OUA all-rookie team, joined outside hitter Candice Paulsen and setter Nadia Reider as first-team all-stars. 

Islamic law is not what the West fears it is

The headline in Tuesday’s Record – Pakistan to impose Islamic law as part of truce with militants – will probably trigger a predictable reaction, that there is a relentless surge of militant Islamism in the world, a "clash of civilizations" even, wrote Thomas Hueglin, a professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University, in an opinion piece published Feb. 19 in Waterloo Region’s The Record.

Very few people in the western liberal and Christian world have bothered to inquire what political Islamism actually wants to achieve, and the reasons why the support for Shariah law is far more widespread among Muslim populations than the reductionist western views of Islamic religious dictatorships would have it.  

Consider the case of Turkey. It, too, has been in the news, because the once fiercely secular state is now governed by an Islamist party under Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, which is widely seen as an obstacle for Turkey’s bid to become a member of the European Union.  

As Sabine Dreher, a professor of international studies at York’s Glendon College, explains, however, the facts are quite different: It is Turkey’s secularist military and business elites which are most reluctant to join the European Union. Their record of authoritarian governance and human rights violations would come under unwelcome scrutiny. In turn, Erdogan’s moderately Islamist Justice and Development party seeks EU membership most actively, hoping for development aid, of course, but also for improved business opportunities.  

York incident cited at forum on campus racism

At a forum exploring campus racism on Wednesday, a panel heard that the name-calling and graffiti that often go hand-in-hand with racism are still alive and well on campuses, reported The Canadian Press Feb. 18.  

Last year, the Black Students’ Alliance at York University had “nigger” and "go back to Africa” written on its office door on Martin Luther King Day. At Ryerson, the bulletin board belonging to the East African Students of Toronto was set on fire. 

The forum at George Brown College was the first of several the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students will be holding across the province before the end of April.

On air

  • Bernard Wolf, director of the International MBA Program at York’s Schulich School of Business, was interviewed about General Motors and Chrysler restructuring plans on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Morning” and other regional programs Feb. 18, and on CBC Newsworld Feb. 17.  
  • Harry Arthurs, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and former commissioner of the Expert Commission on Pensions, discussed how a pension benefits guarantee fund, a pension plan safety net, is under pressure, on CBC Radio’s “Great Northwest” in Thunder Bay, Feb. 18.
  • Mitchell Bernard, a consultant on Asian business and professor emeritus at York’s Schulich School of Business, discussed how the Bank of Japan will react to a worsening economic situation, on “Market Morning” (BNN-TV), Toronto, Feb. 18.
  • The Ontario government is offering to extend the student loans to the 13,000 York University students affected by the three-month strike, reported regional radio and TV stations in Toronto and around Ontario Feb. 18.