Kumitaisou or human pyramid exercise at my daughter's middle school, 2014

Kumitaisou or human pyramid exercise at my daughter’s middle school, 2014

Autumn is here, and many schools are holding their sports festivals (undokai, taikusai) roundabout now. Showstopping and heartstopping events like the human pyramid gymnastics formations are the most popular(watch on Youtube here) but statistics show they also generate the third greatest number of injuries during physical exercise classes in schools nationwide(see news article below). My son broke his wrist one year after a fall over a hurdle that had been wrongly set up back-to-front. Accidents are so common in school that nobody bats an eyelid especially from middle school onwards … i didn’t so much as receive a phonecall from anyone at the school to explain how my son got his injury.

Digitally yours,

Aileen Kawagoe

Human pyramid accidents on rise

The Yomiuri Shimbun, September 27, 2014, via Newsonjapan

Students had more than 6,500 accidents while doing “human pyramid” gymnastic formations at primary schools in fiscal 2012, a public organization promoting sports found recently.

According to the Japan Sport Council, 6,533 accidents occurred in 2012 during such formations, a popular event at sports festivals at primary schools.

In the 10 years to fiscal 2012, there were 20 serious accidents resulting in permanent injuries. One expert said the rise in the number of accidents has a lot to do with the tendency to form higher human pyramids at schools.[watch a human pyramid collapse at Youtube here]

“There have been a number of serious accidents, so thorough safety measures need to be taken,” said Associate Prof. Ryo Uchida at Nagoya University, who analyzed the data.

Under the injury and accident mutual aid benefit system — one of its major programs — the council provides benefits in cases of injury, accident or death that occur to students and younger children while under the supervision of schools.

Receiving reports from schools that the number of accidents during gymnastic formations has been rising, the council collected relevant data. It found there were 5,976 accidents in fiscal 2011 and 6,533 in fiscal 2012, excluding those that occurred during after-school club activities.

Uchida found that accidents during gymnastic formations were the third largest in number, following those involving vaulting box events and basketball.

Out of the top 10 sport events with the most accidents, gymnastic formations are the only one not included in the sports programs covered by the education ministry’s official guidelines for school teaching.

In recent years, there has been a growing tendency to build higher human pyramids, with some primary schools attempting to create a nine-level formation and some middle schools an 11-level formation, reaching as high as the height of the second or the third floor of a building.

One child at the bottom stage of an 11-stage formation was calculated to have supported the weight of up to 4.2 children.

“In recent years, sports meets at [primary and middle] schools have taken on an aspect of being for the benefit of teachers and parents, rather than for the students themselves. The higher levels [of gymnastic formations] may be related to this tendency,” said Noriko Mizoguchi, associate professor at Shizuoka University of Art and Culture.

No. of accidents at primary schoolss during physical exercise classes or sports festivals (fiscal 2012)

1. Vaulting box         15,315

2. Basketball.            10,890

3. Gym. formation.      6,533

4. Mat exercises          5,789

5. Soccer, futsal.          5,631

6. Dodgeball                5,105

7. Horizontal bar          3,176

8. Hurdles                    2,946

9. Jump rope               2,897

10.Sprints                    2,956

*Compiled from Japan Sport Council data. Accidents exclude those that occupied during extracurricuoar activities, such as club activities, and warm-ups, exercises.