May 12, 2011
Fitness, Aquatics and Special Events
Loyola University Chicago
The promotion of physical activity within a comprehensive recreation program is an important component for all Campus Recreation Departments. As part of a risk management assessment, many universities are evaluating the pre-activity screening process. While nearly all universities require participants of their Personal Training program to complete a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) as well as a health history questionnaire, very few universities require the general population to complete the same paperwork. Although most individuals are at very low risk for an exercise-related cardiovascular event, the risk of adverse cardiac events is considerably higher during or immediately after exercise, especially in habitually sedentary individuals engaging in vigorous physical activity (American College of Sports Medicine [ACSM], 2007). Researchers have concluded that, in general, risk of heart attack is about two to six times higher during strenuous exercise than during light physical activity or rest (Balady, 1998). The risk of a cardiovascular event is highest in persons with known heart disease.
An important challenge facing campus recreation facilities is to provide a motivation toward participation in an exercise program while minimizing the potential risk of an adverse medical event during or after exercise (ACSM, 2007). In years past, some lawyers and risk managers have recommended that fitness professionals not engage in pre-screenings. The advice was based on the concept that if the information was received from clients and misinterpreted, it could create liability for the facility in the event of a later injury to the client (Herbert, 1997). The American College of Sports Medicine’s guidelines require that every facility offering exercise equipment must provide a general pre-activity risk assessment, e.g., Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q), to all new/prospective members (ACSM, 2007).