New guidelines to help prevent injuries when students take part in kumitaiso, the gymnastic formation known as a human pyramid, will be drafted by the end of March, education minister Hiroshi Hase announced Tuesday.
Kumitaiso is a popular and long-running feature during sports days at Japanese schools, but the practice has also been the cause of serious injuries, raising safety concerns.
“It involves the lives of children, and some of the casualties reported have led to serious injuries,” Hase told a news conference.
He said that in preparing the guidelines, the education ministry will analyze medical reports from elementary, junior high and high school students that have been submitted to the Japan Sport Council to establish how the injuries occurred.
According to the JSC, insurance payments were made in more than 8,000 cases a year between fiscal 2011 and 2014 to cover medical bills for injuries associated with students performing the human pyramid.
In the city of Osaka, the board of education has made it a rule for schools to limit the size of human pyramids to five tiers and human towers to three.
At Taisho Junior High School in Yao, Osaka Prefecture, a 10-tier human pyramid — where students kneel in rows on each other’s backs, with the top person standing — collapsed during a performance at the school’s sports day on Sept. 27. One student suffered broken bones, while five more sustained other injuries.
Hase did not elaborate on whether the guidelines will include regulations similar to those in Osaka.
“I should not comment on what could be included or not because we won’t know until we analyze the data,” he said.