Falls are the second worldwide cause of deaths resulting from unintentional injuries, leading to billions of dollars in healthcare costs. In response to a call from the World Health Organization, the Safe Fall – Safe School project proposes and studies an innovative, judo-based method that teaches children to react in a way that keeps them safe in the event of a fall. The research, conducted by the University of Seville and supported by the European Judo Union (EJU), shows promising first results.
The Safe Fall – Safe School program has been designed to study the spontaneous motor response of children in case of an unintentional fall, to then teach a safe and protected way of falling. Its implementation would strengthen prevention and help reduce both the frequency and the harmful consequences of falls.
Why is this important? The WHO stated in 2018 that falls represent «the second worldwide cause of deaths by accidental or unintentional injuries». Children and older adults are the populations most at risk: 40% to 50% of children in school age experienced a fall. Furthermore, research shows that falls cause 58 billion dollars a year health care costs in the United States alone (Miller, Staten, & Rayens, 2005).
The Safe Fall – Safe School program involves dedicating five to ten minutes of each PE classroom session. In this time, students perform assimilation exercises that help them automate the protection gestures necessary to reduce the consequences of an unintentional fall. The first results, obtained after executing the program with over 1200 primary and secondary school children in Seville (Spain), are promising. For example, the percentage of students who controlled their head to avoid hitting the ground when falling backwards went from 10.8% to 89.2% after participation in the program.
The University of Seville has been joined in the implementation and research by the International University of Milan (Italy) and the University of Pécs (Hungary). Universities and judo federations from seven other countries have committed to future collaboration, while countless others have shown interest.
In conclusion, Safe Fall – Safe School can respond to the WHO’s call for the development of effective fall-prevention programs. Complementing existing programs, Safe Fall – Safe School’s innovative approach represents the next step in combating the harmful effects of falls worldwide.
Check the latest published article by the Safe Fall project research team: