Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

The "Safe Falls, Safe Schools" Multicentre International Project: Evaluation and Analysis of Backwards Falling Ability in Italian Secondary Schools

Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

The "Safe Falls, Safe Schools" Multicentre International Project: Evaluation and Analysis of Backwards Falling Ability in Italian Secondary Schools

Article excerpt


Motor ability learning and regular physical activity are crucial aspects in maintaining good health (Padulo et al., 2019) throughout the lifespan (Tang et al., 2008; Liong et al., 2015). Indeed, movement skills learning allows the population to master the numerous good practice examples that can help to prevent health risks (Giblin et al., 2014). Falls are recognized as the most frequent cause of accidental injury in Italy (ISTAT, 2014). Different studies have reported on the epidemiology of fall-related injuries in Italy, where 54.8% of people have experienced an accidental injury caused by falling (ISTAT, 2014). The World Health Organization (WHO) considers falls to be the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide (WHO, 2018). Meanwhile, the Safe Fall, Safe Schools Programme (SFSSP) aspires to become one of the "good practice" examples that can help in preventing injuries and so maintaining good health if repeated throughout an individual's life. The SFSSP could come under the range of physical literacy topics, defined by Whitehead (2010, 2013) as "a disposition to capitalize on our human embodied capability, wherein the individual has: the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for maintaining purposeful physical pursuits/activities throughout the life-course". The main aim of the SFSSP is to prevent falls in the lifespan (Toronjo-Hornillo et al., 2018). Falls are frequent among the elderly (ISTAT, 2014); therefore, the SFSSP should be proposed to prevent fall risks and injuries related to this population. Since 2017, the SFSSP has been part of a multicentre proactive international project to teach people how to fall safely (Del Castillo-Andrés et al., 2019). Therefore, knowledge of specific skills and motor behaviours as well as falls could help to prevent fall risk and related injuries. It was demonstrated that the SFSSP in secondary school physical education (PE) classes allows adolescent students to learn backwards falling techniques in a safe and protected way (Toronjo-Hornillo et al., 2018).

Indeed, it is widely known that adolescence (14-18 and 12-17 years in males and females, respectively) is characterized by a decrease in the time spent on physical activity (Sherar et al., 2007) as well as coordinative ability impairment (Hirtz & Starosta, 2002). In the same way, abilities such as abstraction, mental flexibility, working memory (Alesi et al., 2015) and attention (De Giorgio et al., 2018) seem to experience a decrease during adolescence as well, reaching their lowest level (Roalf, 2014).

Conversely, early adulthood and periods before and after puberty (until the 13th year and after the 15th year of age in males; until the 11th year and after the 13th year in females) are conducive to improvements in motor learning and neurocognitive abilities (Hirtz & Starosta, 2002; Roalf, 2014). Moreover, it is necessary to investigate whether backwards falling ability, as taught by the "Safe Falls, Safe Schools" programme, is related to age. However, as previously mentioned by Toronjo-Hornillo et al. (2018), learning how to fall backwards has not been investigated in relation to age. As previously demonstrated (Padulo et al., 2014), motor ability sensitivity differs according to age. For this reason, age comparisons can be useful to identify the trends and benefits needed to clarify this paradigm. Therefore, the first aim of this study was to analyse the effects of the SFSSP warm-up on Italian secondary school students in the first five weeks, while the second aim was to investigate the detraining effects after the SFSSP intervention.

Material and methods


Eighty-seven secondary school students took part in this investigation. The sample, comprising 53 students in the first year of high school (13 years) and 3 4 students in the fifth year of high school (17 years), was randomly selected and balanced according to age (one-to-one ratio), with each participant assigned to one of two groups. …

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