A Perspective on Exercise and Sport Science in the Arab Countries
To begin with I must confess that when I was asked by my dear friend Dr. Mahfoud Amara to write an editorial on exercise and sport science in the Arab countries, I did hesitate to say yes for a while. The reason for that was the lack of reliable and readily available published resources on the development of the field of exercise and sport science in the Arab countries. This was much apparent when I have tried probing several search engines including the immense Google and Google Scholar with no success. Therefore, I have heavily relied, when writing this piece of editorial, on my intuition, modest personal knowledge and 30 years of experience in the field.
However, before talking about exercise and sport science in the Arab countries, I find it extremely important to provide the readers with a brief definition and application of this fairly new discipline. The term exercise and sport science simply refers to the application of scientific methods and principles to the understanding, explaining and promoting the phenomenon of exercise and sport. Such application encompasses all human movements that are intended for health, fitness, workplace, rehabilitation, sporting activities, training, physical performance and leisure. Exercise and sports science professionals work in a diverse range of jobs.In deed, our scientific field touches upon the lives of almost every segment of the society. It has in particular wide applications in three important areas, including education(as in school physical activity), sports, coaching and performance -related jobs (as in military and firefighters) andfinally health and well-being of all people from children to the elderly and from prevention to disease management.
Again, I must admit that although I have been diligently working in the area of sports medicine/sport science relatively for a long time, I find it always difficult to find a published document about an important issue of exercise and sport science in the Arab countries. In fact, most of what I know about exercise and sport science in many Arab countries is largely based on anecdote or personal communications. Ironically, I (and certainly many others like myself) may be able to know a lot of information about exercise and sport science development at the international scene but not that much at the pan Arab level. This may illustrate how deeply is the problem of disseminating and/or searching for information on exercise and sport science research activities in the Arab countries. Sadly to say, not many Arab sport scientists publish in international scientific periodicals, which are usually covered by major search engines. Furthermore, there are not many communication platforms (scientific organizations, regional journals, well organized congresses, etc…) that can bring Arab exercise/sport scientists and scholars together. Adding to this predicament how poorly resourced are the electronic sites within the majority of Arab’s exercise and sport science institutions. These particular points as well as other issues that are not discussed in this short editorial may perhaps highlight the significance of the establishment of the International Society of Exercise and Sport Science in the Arab World (i3saw). Niel Armstrong, the first astronaut to land on the Moon, described his achievement by saying “A small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind” and to borrow the words from him, I can say that although this start is a small step, it is a giant leap for the future of Arab sport science.
Unfortunately, most genuine attempts to raise the profile of sport sciences research and scholarship in the Arab countries are the results of hard work conducted by enthusiastic scholars working individually here and there with little institutionalized involvement. Just to illustrate this particular point, I have started roughly six years ago a web site for the purpose of creating an Arabic language database for sports medicine, sport science and physical education research under the support of Saudi Federation of Physical Education and Sports. I have voluntarily worked very hard along with a team of assistants for many months to classify, edit and categorize tens of documents every month, which were submitted through the site by interested Arab exercise and sport scientists. After only a few months from the start of this project, the site was encompassing hundreds of research articles, of which any one can electronically search and download. The electronic site was also providing search capability for seeking out names and addresses of Arab experts in the different subspecialties of exercise and sport science. Regrettably, such efforts and vital works went in vain just after I had left the board of directors, as the project was deemed worthless and was eventually abandoned by the subsequently appointed board of directors for the Saudi Federation of Physical Education and Sports. Why I brought this issue up in this editorial? Or in other words what is the lesion from this example? The answer is that this newly scientific organization (i3saw) can be an excellent candidate for hosting such a data base encompassing credible information on published Arabic papers in the field of exercise and sport science. It can have a searchable directory of Arab experts in the field as well.
Despite what I have said, with this seemingly depressing outlook of the exercise and sport science in the Arab countries, I must acknowledge that the future of exercise and sport science in many Arab countries is rather promising. Currently, tens of young Arab sport and exercise scientists either have already trained or are doing their post graduate training in major universities around the globe, and I have had the opportunity to meet or communicate with so many of them. There is no doubt that many of those scientists were trained in the finest universities in the world and they are overly capable of making a difference and leading the future of exercise and sport science in the Arab countries to a much better status than what has been in the past. Moreover, with the recent globalization trend, many Arab universities have witnessed extensive academic reforms during the last few years. Therefore, we only can hope that such reforms would positively influence exercise and sport science within these Arab universities and ultimately enhances the profile of our field and places it in par with that in many developed countries. A final point that deserves mentioning is that we do have many talented Arab scholars working outside their Arab countries in North America, Europe or the rest of the world and thus we need to keenly connect with them. They certainly can serve as a catalysts and/or synergists in our quest to improving the status of exercise and sport science in the Arab countries through close collaboration with them especially in capacity building.
Wassalamo Aliakom Wa Rahmato Allah Wa Barakatoh.
Hazzaa M. Al-Hazzaa, PhD, FACSM
Professor and Director, Pediatric Exercise Physiology Research Laboratory,
College of Education, King Saud University,
Scientific Boards, Obesity Research Chair, College of Medicine,
King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and
Principle Investigator, Arab Teens Lifestyle Study (ATLS)
Web page: http://faculty.ksu.edu.sa/hazzaa