Exercise and health researchers and students from The University of Western Australia have contributed to the development and evaluation of a screening tool to prevent exercise-related risks and adverse events among children.
The newly launched Pre-Exercise Screening System for Young People aims to identify young people aged between five and 17 who may have medical conditions which put them at a higher risk of an adverse event during physical activity.
“The risk of exercise-related injury among young people is lower than adults but there are still risks for some children, so the tool is designed to minimise harm wherever possible."Dr Bonnie Furzer
Based on responses to a questionnaire, the tool acts as a ‘safety net’ to help exercise leaders or providers determine if there are any potential immediate risks to participation which should be considered before engaging in physical activity.
Accredited exercise physiologist Dr Bonnie Furzer, from UWA’s School of Human Sciences, said although screening programs that aimed to minimise risks among adults were commonly used, there was no such tool for children.
“The risk of exercise-related injury among young people is lower than adults but there are still risks for some children, so the tool is designed to minimise harm wherever possible,” Dr Furzer said.
“The tool uses medical history information, such as if the young person has anaphylaxis, to make an evaluation and comes with a user guide which enables all exercise professionals to implement it.”
Dr Furzer chaired the committee that developed the tool and said the system was built in consultation with industry bodies, including Sports Medicine Australia, Fitness Australia and Exercise & Sports Science Australia.
UWA Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology graduate and Thriving Program Coordinator Tony Ton acted independently from the tool developers to evaluate the effectiveness of the screening system.
“There is such a strong advocacy for exercise among young people, but at the same time there is no safety net that ensures safe participation,” Mr Ton said.
“This tool has the potential to be that safety net and prevent kids from experiencing injuries.”
In 2019, the Adult Pre-Exercise Screening System was updated, acknowledging the need to adopt a global approach to pre-exercise screening. From there, the need to develop a similar screening system specific to children and young adults became the new focus.
Dr Furzer hopes the screening system for children will be rolled out across Australia and used in schools, gyms, fitness facilities and other venues where kids are doing exercise.