Over the 27-year period 1983 to 2009, 108 students died as a result of judo accidents in Japanese junior and senior high schools (age range ca 12 to 18years)1 , 60% of them from brain injury. The mean of four deaths per year is significantly higher than in any other school sport. The incidence of death in judo among junior high school students (age range ca 12 to 15years) is 5.3 times higher than in basket ball, which has the second highest death rate.
Note that these figures do not include deaths from accidents outside school such as in private judo clubs, so the total number of deaths in young people is higher still. There have also been a large number of serious injuries, many of which have resulted in chronic higher brain dysfunction or persistent disturbance of consciousness.
When judo deaths and injuries occur under the supervision of schools, victims and their families often encounter barriers to the investigations into the causes and who was responsible. Japan Judo Accident Victims Association (JJAVA) is a group of judo accident victims, their families, and other concerned people, founded with the mission to support victims and find ways to reduce death and serious injury among students in Japan through introduction of effective safety measures as standard practice in the sport of judo. JJAVA is studying international best practice and developing proposals for an improved safety regime.
Martial arts will soon become compulsory for boys and girls in all public junior high schools in Japan, so it is particularly important to ensure that adequate and appropriate attention is given to safety in judo instruction and practice.
1 Ryo Uchida (2010). Judo Accidents. Aichi Univ. of Education Research Report
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