Parissa Safai

Associate Professor

Locations / Contact Info:

335 Norman Bethune College - BC
Keele Campus
Phone: 416 736 2100 Ext. 23040
Fax: 416 736 5774

Email address(es):

Faculty & School/Dept.

Faculty of Health - School of Kinesiology & Health Science


Doctor of Philosophy - 2005
Department of Exercise Sciences
University of Toronto

Bachelor of Kinesiology - 1998
Department of Kinesiology
McMaster University

Master's of Science - 2001
Department of Exercise Sciences
University of Toronto


Parissa Safai is an Associate Professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science in the Faculty of Health at York University.  Her research interests focus on the critical study of sport at the intersection of risk, health and healthcare.  This includes research on sports’ “culture of risk”, the development and social organization of sport and exercise medicine, as well as the social determinants of athletes’ health.  Her research and teaching interests also centre on sport and social inequality with focused attention paid to the impact of gender, socio-economic, and ethnocultural inequities on accessible physical activity for all.  Her work has been published in such journals as the Sociology of Sport Journal, the International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Sport History Review and the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History/Bulletin canadien
d'histoire de la médecine.


Selected Publications


  • Harvey, J., Horne, J., Safai, P., Darnell, S., and Courchesne-O’Neill, S. (2014). Sport and Global Social Movements. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

  • Baker, J., Fraser-Thomas, J., and Safai, P. (Eds.), (2014). Health and Elite Sport: Is High Performance Sport a Healthy Pursuit?  London: Routledge.

  • Malcolm, D. and Safai, P. (Eds.). (2012). The Social Organization of Sports Medicine: Critical Socio-Cultural Perspectives. London: Routledge.

Invited Book Chapters:

  • Safai, P. (2016). Medicalised and Scientized Bodies.  In M. Silk, D. Andrews and H. Thorpe (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Physical Cultural Studies (pp. 193-201).  London: Routledge.

  • Safai, P. (2016).  Sociology of Sport: Canada.  In K. Young (Ed.), Sociology of Sport: A Global Subdiscipline in Review (pp. 323-342).  London: Emerald Press.

  • Safai, P. and Malcolm, D. (2016).  Sport and Health.  In B. Houlihan (Ed.), Sport and Society: A Student Introduction (3rd Edition) (pp. 267-303).  London, UK: Sage.

  • Safai, P. (2015). Change Rooms and Change Agents: The Struggle against Barriers to Opportunities for Physical Activity and Sport in Ethnocultural Communities in Toronto.  In R. Field (Ed.), Playing for Change (pp. 253-273).  Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

  • Safai, P. (2013). Sports medicine, the state and the politics of risk. In D.L. Andrews and B. Carrington (Eds.), A Companion to Sport (pp. 112-128). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

  • Safai, P. (2013). Women and Sport Policy. In L. Thibault and J. Harvey (Eds.), Sport Policy in Canada (pp. 307-350). Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.

Articles in Refereed Journals:

  • Safai, P., johnson, j and Bryans, J. (2016). “The Absence of Resistance Training? Exploring the Politics of Health in High Performance Youth Triathlon.”  Sociology of Sport Journal, 33(4), 269-281.

  • Shrier, I., Safai, P. and Charland, L. (2013). “Return to Play following Injury: Whose Decision Should It Be?” British Journal of Sports Medicine, published online first 5 September 2013, doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2013-092492

  • Safai, P. (2011). “A Healthy Anniversary? Exploring Narratives of Health in the 1968 and 2008 Olympic Games.” Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, 28(2), 367-382.

  • Harvey, J., Horne, J. and Safai, P. (2009).  Alter-globalization, global social movements and the possibility of political transformation through sport.  Sociology of Sport Journal, 26(3), 383-403. 

Community Reports:

  • Safai, P. and Marchesseault, D. (2012). 2012 Get Active Toronto Youth Summit Report. Toronto: YMCA of Greater Toronto.

  • Safai, P. and Harrington, A. (2012). 2012 Get Active Toronto Community Snapshots Report. Toronto: YMCA of Greater Toronto.

  • YMCA of Greater Toronto (2010, 2011, 2012). Get Active Toronto Report on Physical Activity. Toronto: Author.




Other Research Outputs

Safai, P. and Donnelly, P. (2004).  Equity Issues Committee Recommendations Report (Joint Committee of the Faculty Council and the Council of Athletics and Recreation).  Toronto: Faculty of Physical Education and Health, University of Toronto.

Donnelly, P., McCloy, C., Petherick, L. and Safai, P. (2000).  The Crisis  in School Sport: Issues and Resolutions (Centre for Sport Policy Studies Colloquium Report).  Toronto: Faculty of Physical Education and Health, University of Toronto.

Gajardo, L. and Safai, P. (1999).  Ethnocultural Academic Initiatives Project: Final Report.  Toronto: Faculty of Physical Education and Health, University of Toronto.

Clarke, H. and Safai, P. (1999).  Athlete-centred Sport: Current Status of Athlete Representation in International Sport Governance.  In Olympic Advocates Together Honourably (OATH) International Symposium: Ignite the Democratic Flame (pp. 3-16).  New York, NY: OATH.


Centre for Sport Policy Studies

International Sociology of Sport Association

Research Centre for Sport in Canadian Society

North American Society for the Sociology of Sport

Service/Community Activities

Get Active Toronto, 2009-2012
As the sole qualitative researcher, I was responsible for all of the qualitative research components of the annual report in addition to being involved with the direction of the entire report

Sociology of Sport Journal Editorial Board Member, 2011 to Present

Sport Canada Sport Participation Research Initiative Advisory Committee, 2009 to Present


Faculty of Health Service Award (Early Career) - 2013


Currently available to supervise graduate students: Yes

Currently taking on work-study students, Graduate Assistants or Volunteers: Not Indicated

Available to supervise undergraduate thesis projects: Not Indicated

Current Research

My major research interests, to date, have focused on the critical socio-cultural study of sport and physical activity at the intersection of risk, health and healthcare including such key themes as:

·      The re/production and naturalization of sport’s “culture of risk,” its dialectical relationship with a “culture of precaution,” and the negotiation of treatment between patient-athletes and medical/paramedical clinicians;

·      The tension between risk and safety in the ‘risk society’ and the ways in which the risk-safety binary operates in contemporary sport;

·      The social organization and socio-historical development of the field of sport medicine in Canada, including the development of sport medicine’s ‘system of professions’ (i.e., the varied medical, paramedical and complementary/alternative healthcare occupational groups that comprise the field of sport medicine and their jurisdictional interrelationships and negotiations); and

·      The production of high performance sport and its impact on athletes, with particular interest in the social determinants of athletes’ health and the ways in which the material conditions of athletes’ lives, as framed by the Canadian high performance sport system and sport policy, influences their health and well-being.