New online resource to help keep Alberta students safe during physical activities

Injury Prevention Centre and partners launch SPHEReS website as a convenient, comprehensive tool for teachers and coaches across the province.

The School of Public Health’s Injury Prevention Centre and partners have launched School Physical Activity, Health & Education Resource for Safety (SPHEReS), a website that provides safe instructional practises for physical education curriculum activities, daily physical activity initiative, intramural activities and recess or lunch breaks. 

“Injury is the leading cause of death and disability to children and youth in Alberta, and more than 50 per cent of injuries to school-aged children happen in schools, and most of those occur while participating in physical activity,” said Kathy Belton, associate director of the Injury Prevention Centre. The purpose of SPHERes is to build knowledge and capacity amongst teachers and coaches to prevent injuries to students, and to share that knowledge more broadly.

The site, available in both English and French, outlines fundamentals such as the roles and duties of supervisors;  and medical, environmental and facility factors to be aware of to prevent injuries to students. It also offers supplemental information about activity programming, social factors, additional medical considerations for students, and information specific to outdoor activities. 

According to Belton, these new features are in line with current best practises and evidence in activity programming and in injury prevention. “What we know about recognizing, managing and preventing concussions in children and youth, for example, has changed since the last iteration of guidelines was issued in 2013,” she said. “It’s critical that supervisors have access to current recommendations and SPHEReS makes that available to prevent traumatic brain injuries in children and youth.”

Neuromuscular training (NMT) is another new topic SPHEReS addresses. The dynamic warmup method uses aerobic, balance, strength, and agility exercises to enhance motor programming and prepare the body for functional work. NMT helps the muscles and neurological system work together to improve balance, strength and agility. Research has shown a 35 to 70 per cent reduction in sport and recreation injury when NMT warm up is used over more traditional methods. 

Instructors will also find new content for more than 200 curricular and interschool athletics activities. This includes more inclusive activities, such as Indigenous activities, parasports, and unified activities which bring participants of varying abilities together, safely.

SPHEReS builds on the legacy of the Safety Guidelines for Physical Activity in Alberta Schools and the Interschool Athletics Guidelines first released in 1999 and replaces the 2013 print resource that was available to school boards, teachers and school staff at a cost. Its free online version was difficult to access and navigate. “The new website is accessible from smart phones and other mobile devices and is easily searchable, making it more convenient for teachers and staff to use in-the-moment and in a wider variety of settings,” explained Belton.

The site is intended for use by school teachers, staff and coaches and is included in Alberta Education’s  ESC to Grade 12 Guide to Education. However, Belton says parents, child care professionals and others in the community who plan for and supervise active children will find it helpful in preventing injuries. 

Funded by the Government of Alberta, SPHERes was developed by an advisory committee of partners including the Injury Prevention Centre; Alberta Schools Athletic Association; Alberta Culture,  Multiculturalism, and Status of Women; Sports Medicine Council of Alberta;  LloydSadd Insurance Brokers;  Alberta Health;  Alberta Education; Edmonton Catholic Schools; Population, Public and Indigenous Health,  University of Calgary;  EverActive Schools;  Alberta School Boards Association;  Alberta Sport Connection; College of Alberta School Superintendents;  Alberta Health Services; Alberta Sport; and in collaboration with the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre at the University of Calgary. 


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