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 a 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. She served as Interim Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Health from 2017-2018.  From January 2021 to April 2022, she served as Special Advisor to the President for Academic Continuity Planning and COVID-19 Response. As of January 2024, she will serve as President of the International Sociology of Sport Association (ISSA).

Selected Publications

Books (* indicates students):

  • McSweeney, M.*, Svensson, P., Hayhurst, L., and Safai, P. (Eds.). (2022).  Sport, Entrepreneurship and Development.  London: Routledge.

  • 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.

Select Invited Book Chapters (* indicates students):

  • Safai, P. (in press). Sport, Participation, and Well-being.  In L. Wenner (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Sport and Society (19 pages).  Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

  • McCullogh, E. & Safai, P. (2021). Beyond the Reach of Policy? Making Sense of Care and Caring in Competitive Youth Sport. In M. Lang (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Athlete Welfare (pp. 43-53).  London, UK: Routledge.

  • Safai, P. (2019).  “Sport and Health.”  In J. Scherer and B. Wilson (Eds.), Social Dimensions of Canadian Sport and Physical Activity, 2nd edition.  Toronto: Pearson.

  • Safai, P. and Cappe, S.* (2019).  “Disability, Sport, and Society.” In J. Maguire, M. Falcous and K. Liston (Eds.), The Business and Culture of Sports (pp. 299-320).  London: Macmillan Reference.

  • Fraser-Thomas, J. and Safai, P. (2018).  “Tykes and Timbits: A Critical Examination of Organized Sport Programs for Preschoolers.”  In R. Dionigi and M. Gard (Eds.), Sport and Physical Activity across the Lifespan (pp. 93-116).  London: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • 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.

Select Articles in Refereed Journals (* indicates students):

  • Barnes, S., Nakamura, Y. and Safai, P. (Accepted).  A formula for success? Institutional statements and their silences in Canadian Kinesiology Programs. Quest. Manuscript submitted November 2021.

  • McCullogh, E. & Safai, P. (2022). Translating care from policy to practice: Limits and lessons from an institutional ethnographic study examining Ontario youth volleyball. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 14(3), 529-544. DOI: 10.1080/19406940.2022.2090994

  • Sedaghat-Modabberi, R., Meisner, B.A., and Safai, P. (2022). Lived Experiences of the Admissions Process among Administrative Staff of Long-Term Care Facilities.  Canadian Journal of Aging / La Revue canadienne du vieillissement, 41(4), 1-10, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0714980821000702

  • McSweeney, M.* and Safai, P. (2020).  Innovating Canadian Sport Policy: Towards New Public Management and Public Entrepreneurship? International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 12(3), 405-421. https://doi.org/10.1080/19406940.2020.1775678

  • Pritlove, C., Safai, P., Angus, J., Armstrong, P. and Jones, J. (2018). “It’s Hard Work:” A Feminist Political Economy Approach to Reconceptualizing ‘Work’ in the Cancer Context," Qualitative Health Research, 29(5), 758-773. 

  • 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. (2014). “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

Invited Speaker and Panelist, “Sport and Health,” The Sport Conference, University of Alberta, June 2019.

Invited Speaker, “Advancing a Political Economy of Sport, Medicine and Health,” Health Psychology Graduate Diploma Program Seminar Lecture, York University, November 2017.

Invited Keynotes and Public Presentations:

  • Panelist, “Gender, Sports, Health/Wellness,” Game Changers: Gender, Sports, and Society.  Annual Conference of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, April 2017.  https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/video/game-changers-2-4-gender-sports-and-healthwellness or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48lUL51vD8g
  • Keynote, “Being an Academic in Turbulent Times: Resisting the Optical Illusion of Separateness,” The Bertha Rosenstadt National Undergraduate Research Conference, University of Toronto, March 2017.
  • Invited Speaker, “The Work of Care: The Political Economy of Injury and Care in High-Performance Sport,” Health Psychology Graduate Diploma Program Seminar Lecture, York University, March 2017.
  • Keynote, “Carving Out the Political Dimensions of Humane High Performance Sport,” 14th Annual Donald Macintosh Memorial Lecture, Queen’s University, January 2016.
  • Keynote, “Sports Practice and Risk Culture,” International Symposium of Sport, Health and Interdisciplinarity.  Physical Education School at Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, August 2015.
  • Panelist, “Be a Sport,” Art Gallery of Mississauga, August 2015.
  • Symposium Speaker, “Towards a Politics of Health in Sport,” 2015 Pan American Sport & Exercise Research Summit (Panex 2015), April 2015


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

Member, York University Vice-President Research and Innovation Search Committee

President's Designate, York University Dean of Science Search Committee

Academic Lead, HR Service Transformation Team, 2019-2020

General Secretary, International Sociology of Sport Association, 2020-2023

Special Advisor to the President for Academic Continuity Planning and COVID-19 Response, 2021-22, York University


Faculty of Health Service Award (Early Career) - 2013

Dean's Faculty, Service & Engagement Impact – Established Career Award - 2020


Currently available to supervise graduate students: Yes

Currently taking on work-study students, Graduate Assistants or Volunteers: No

Available to supervise undergraduate thesis projects: Yes

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 and exercise 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.


Research Projects

A Labyrinth of Inequity: A Feminist Political Economy Approach to the Gender Gap in Academic Medicine
Role: CoInvestigator
Amount funded: $71164
Year Funded: 2021
Duration: 2
Funded by: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

Exploring the Sport-work-gender Nexus in Canadian High-Performance Sport Coaching
Role: Principal Investigator
Amount funded: $18000
Year Funded: 2021
Duration: 2
Funded by: Other...
Other funding: E-Alliance: Research Hub for Gender & Equity in Sport

KIN Games? Examining the Construction of Relevance in Kinesiology in Canada
Role: Principal Investigator
Amount funded: $208090
Year Funded: 2019
Duration: 4
Funded by: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

Sport and the Digital Economy: A Case Study of the Canadian Sports Analytics Industry
Role: CoInvestigator
Amount funded: $86348
Year Funded: 2022
Duration: 4
Funded by: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council