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Spanish PE Program Would Teach Kids How to Fall Down Properly

It's an attempt to address a serious public health problem.

The first leading cause of accidental death around the world is car accidents. The second? Falls. Events “which result in a person coming to rest inadvertently on the ground or floor or other lower level” kill 646,000 people every year. Now, a group of academics is trying to lower that number with a new program, Safe Fall-Safe Schools, that’s designed to teach kids how to fall safely.

Researchers at the Department of Physical Education and Sport at the University of Seville studied 122 local schoolchildren, aged 10 to 12, about half girls and half boys, and used data from an international group of 3,000.

The researchers first identified the most harmful fall patterns of children, the spontaneous motor responses that were most likely to cause negative consequences. Based on those findings, they came up with a series of exercises, based on judo, in which kids practice all three kinds of falls — forwards, backward, and sideways — and learn how to adjust their bodies as they’re going down in order to fall in a safer way.

In addition to deaths caused by falls each year, there are plenty of lesser but still serious consequences. Over 37 million falls require medical attention each year, according to World Health Organization data. In the United States alone, healthcare costs associated with falls tally $58 billion per year.

Kids are among the most likely to fall, as half of 5 to 15-year-olds and 40 percent of kids under 4 have one or more ground-level falls every year.

The Safe Fall-Safe Schools methodology can be used with students of different age levels and is designed to be implemented in five to ten-minute chunks of PE classes. It’s in line with WHO recommendations that suggest “mass public education campaigns” as a promising prevention strategy for fall-related injuries.