Children’s injuries in school are called “accidents” in Japan

Dr. Ryo Uchida, Associate Professor of Nagoya University, has written an article “Risk of after-school clubs and the parents’ unawareness of these risks: why do similar accidents occur in schools?” in Gendai Business (November 24, 2015).

In the article he introduced a statement by the British Medical Journal in 2001, which described that accidents were events that happened randomly or by God’s will, thus could not be avoided: however most damages or sudden events could be expected and were preventable. The British Medical Journal proposed that in such cases the word “accident” should not be used.
In Japan, for decades, more than 4 children have died in judo every year.
The Japan Judo Accident Victims Association assumed that fatal or serious accidents must be occurring overseas where judo is popular, and in 2010 asked the judo associations of a number of countries what their level of accidents were.
We used the word “accident” in the email, because this is the English word in the dictionary for the Japanese word jiko. The response from the United States and European countries used “injury” to describe their background of such incidents.
Why is “injury” used when we are asking about accidents? We wondered in the beginning, but after a few exchanges it became clear that an “accident” was an unexpected event that was unavoidable, while an injury was an event that can be expected and prevented. In other words judo tragedies were considered as preventable in these areas.
Most countries that responded to our questions replied that there have been no serious injuries and obviously no death, at least after 2000.

At the “Meeting on Serious Injuries under School Supervision” held recently at the Office Building of the Lower House, families of victims of serious sport injuries participated, including families of judo victims. In Japan 470 children have died in school sports injuries and 120 have become seriously handicapped over 11 years between 1998 and 2009.

Why have so many children lost their lives in sports in Japan?
It was because sport accidents were considered as “unfortunate events” or “nothing can be done about it”, and in most cases the causes were not investigated. Therefore “injuries” must be used, not “accidents”. Investigations should be conducted to prevent the repetition of similar tragedies in schools, which will result in an increase of student victims.

The original document


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