Introduction To counteract the recently observed increase in forearm fractures in children worldwide, an educational programme to improve fall skills was developed. In this 8-week programme children learned basic martial arts falling techniques in their physical education classes. In this study, the effectiveness of this educational programme to improve fall skills was evaluated.
Methods A cluster randomised controlled trial was conducted in 33 primary schools. The intervention group received the educational programme to improve falling skills during their physical education (PE) classes whereas the control group received their regular PE curriculum. At baseline (October 2009) and follow-up (May 2010), a questionnaire was completed by the children about their physical activity behaviours. Furthermore, fall-related injuries were registered continuously during an entire school-year.
Results A total of 36 incident injuries was reported in the intervention group, equalling an injury incidence density (IID) of 0.14 fall-related injuries per 1000 h of physical activity (95% CI 0.09 to 0.18). In contrast, 96 injuries were reported by the control group corresponding to an IID of 0.26 (95% CI 0.21 to 0.32). However, because intracluster correlation was high (ICC=0.46), differences in injury incidence were not statistically significant. When activity level was taken into account, a trend was shown suggesting that the ‘falling is a sport’ programme was effective in decreasing falling-related injury risk, but only in the least active children.
Discussion and conclusion Although results did not reach significance because of strong clustering effects, a trend was found suggesting that a school-based educational programme to improve falling skills may be more beneficial for the prevention of falling-related injuries in children with low levels of habitual physical activity.