Monday 23 April 2018

Revealed: Irish kids aged 12 'cannot run, jump, catch or even hit a ball'

"Reasons why our children are so inactive are so complex, from advances and overuse of electronic devices, overly cautious parents and lack of school or sports resources." Stock photo

Sarah Slater

Children as old as 12 are unable to run, jump, throw, catch or even hit any type of sports ball properly due to inactivity.

Their motor skills are so bad they exercise as if they are in their 30s or older, whenever they have to take part in physical activities or sports.

Initial findings from a first ever national study of exercise levels among 2,000 primary school children aged from four to 12, indicates the country is heading towards a crisis in public health and fitness.

Dublin City University and the GAA came together last March to drive the biggest study of its kind, in a bid to solve the movement malaise throughout the young Irish population.

A previous 2014 DCU study found 89pc of Irish children had not mastered basic movements.

The latest all-Ireland study, which took place from March to June this year, involved more than 30 types of exercises and tests carried out in schools in 12 different counties. Children also had to answer a questionnaire about activity.

Read more: Our kids miss out on heart-pounding thrills if we run away from the issue

Initial figures from the 'Moving Well - Being Well' study indicate up to one-third of children cannot catch a ball with two hands, barely one-quarter of girls can throw overhand and less than half of boys can strike a ball with a bat.

Dr Johann Issartel, from the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at the School of Health and Human Performance, said: "It's a potential catastrophe for public health because the inability to perform fundamental movement skills leads to an aversion to sports and exercise later in life.

"Reasons why our children are so inactive are so complex, from advances and overuse of electronic devices, overly cautious parents and lack of school or sports resources.

"Gone is the tradition of learning these skills in schools. Twelve year olds have not even mastered these skills which would in the past be normal for a six year old.

"Fears by schools and sporting groups that insurance claims will be made, if a child is injured while out playing or taking part in a sport, are also a notable factor in plummeting basic skills."

Comment: Our kids miss out on heart-pounding thrills if we run away from the issue

Dr Issartel, who is leading the study, said what they are finding is "very, very worrying". He said numerous children have indicated they are suffering with a "lack of confidence and feel ashamed" they are unable to play sports properly.

The study, funded by the Science Foundation and the GAA, will publish its preliminary findings in November.

Researchers will create an intervention, which can be adopted in schools and will be delivered by DCU and GAA representatives. Students will be retested to see how the intervention works.

The GAA's director of games development and research Pat Daly said: "There is a problem and this project aims to tackle it in the most child-centred, activity-based, learner-led, achievement-oriented, fun-filled and value-laden manner possible."

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News