A sociologist studying sport, health and medicine at York University, Toronto, Canada


As an Associate Professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science in the Faculty of Health at York University, Parissa’s 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. In addition, she is currently spearheading a major web-based and digital media initiative focused on community-based research, knowledge mobilization/translation and digital storytelling.

Her work has been published in major academic journals and books, and she has contributed to a range of media including The Globe and Mail, CBC Radio, The Toronto Star, Global News, CTV, and CP24.

She is currently serving as the Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Health at York University.


Select Invited Chapters

PLEASE NOTE: If you are interested in reading any of the chapters listed below, please contact Dr. Parissa Safai (psafai@yorku.ca). Downloads must be for private use only.)

Tykes and Timbits: A Critical Examination of Organized Sport Programs for Preschoolers.

Fraser-Thomas, J. and Safai, P. (in press).

In R. Dionigi and M. Gard (Eds.), Sport and Physical Activity across the Lifespan (28 pages).

London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Medicalised and Scientized Bodies.

Safai, P. (2016).

In M. Silk, D. Andrews and H. Thorpe (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Physical Cultural Studies (pp. 193-201).

London: Routledge.

Sociology of Sport: Canada.

Safai, P. (2016).

In K. Young (Ed.), Sociology of Sport: A Global Subdiscipline in Review (pp. 323-342).

London: Emerald Press.

Sport and Health.

Safai, P. and Malcolm, D. (2016).

In B. Houlihan (Ed.), Sport and Society: A Student Introduction (3rd Edition) (pp. 267-303).

London, UK: Sage.

Change Rooms and Change Agents: The Struggle against Barriers to Opportunities for Physical Activity and Sport in Ethnocultural Communities in Toronto.

Safai, P. (2015).

In R. Field (Ed.), Playing for Change (pp. 253-273).

Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Sports medicine, the state and the politics of risk.

Safai, P. (2013).

In D.L. Andrews and B. Carrington (Eds.), A Companion to Sport (pp. 112-128).

Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Women and Sport Policy.

Safai, P. (2013).

In L. Thibault and J. Harvey (Eds.), Sport Policy in Canada (pp. 307-350).

Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.

Select Articles Published in Peer-Reviewed Academic Journals

The Absence of Resistance Training? Exploring the Politics of Health in High Performance Youth Triathlon

Safai, P., johnson, j and Bryans, J. (2016).

Sociology of Sport Journal, 33(4), 269-281.

Return to Play following Injury: Whose Decision Should It Be?

Shrier, I., Safai, P. and Charland, L. (2014).

British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48, 394-401.

A Healthy Anniversary? Exploring Narratives of Health in the 1968 and 2008 Olympic Games

Safai, P. (2011).

Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, 28(2), 367-382.

Alter-globalization, Global Social Movements and the Possibility of Political Transformation through Sport

Harvey, J., Horne, J. and Safai, P. (2009).

Sociology of Sport Journal, 26(3), 383-403.
Reprinted In R. Giulianotti (2011, Ed.), Sociology of Sport. London: SAGE.

A Critical Analysis of the Development of Sports Medicine in Canada, 1955-1980

Safai, P. (2007).

International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 42(3), 321-341.

Sport Volunteerism in Canada: Do Linguistic Groups Count?

Safai, P., Harvey, J., Levesque, M. and Donnelly, P. (2007).

International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 42(4), 425-441.

The Demise of the Sport Medicine and Science Council of Canada

Safai, P. (2005).

Sport History Review, 36(2), 91-114.

Communities In Motion

Parissa is currently spearheading a major web-based and digital media initiative focused on community-based research, knowledge mobilization/translation and digital storytelling.

The Communities in Motion project celebrates innovative community-based research, teaching and service initiatives undertaken by students and faculty in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science.

The Communities in Motion also focuses on the importance of Knowledge Mobilization as an integral part of the community-based research process, with particular attention to digital storytelling as an accessible approach to both engaging in community-based research, teaching or service and translating and sharing knowledge with others.

Throughout the Communities in Motion project, you will see many examples of university-community collaboration around sport, exercise and physical activity.

For more information, go to http://kincommunities.info.yorku.ca/ or www.youtube.com/channel/UC3ws7tystHcHvRYig1ltO9w

Credit: creativenv/Shutterstock


Parissa has contributed to a range of media including The Globe and Mail, CBC Radio, The Toronto Star, Global News, CTV, and CP24.

The Toronto Star (25 July 2017). “Province sets out game plan to tackle gender gap in sport.”


Global News (April 6, 2017). “Women who want to lift heavy feel forced into co-ed sections of gym.”


The Globe and Mail (14 February 2014). “Faster, stronger – deadlier: Why do elite athletes sneer at risk and tempt the gods, and why do we encourage them?”


YorkU Magazine (Winter 2014). “Home Bodies: Why are GTA Girls and Women Much Less Physically Active than Their Male Counterparts.”


TalentEgg.ca (February 2013). “Joining the world of academic: Insight from an associate professor from York University.”



Mitchell McSweeney

MA, Doctoral Student

Mitchell McSweeney

MA, Doctoral Student

Mitch is currently a first-year PhD student in Kinesiology and Health Sciences studying under the advisory of Dr. Lyndsay Hayhurst and co-supervised by Dr. Parissa Safai. Prior to his studies at York, he completed his MA in Applied Health Sciences (specialization: sport management) at Brock University under the advisory of Dr. Lisa Kikulis, in which he critically explored the institutional work of a local Swaziland sport-for-development organization. His research interests include exploring how sport-for-development and peace programs, partnerships, and policies both in the Global North and Global South take place in a socio-political-cultural context infused with power dynamics and social relations. He utilizes various strands of critical theory, postcolonial theory, organizational theory, and ethnographic and digital research methods in his studies. For his doctoral research, Mitch aspires to explore the complex utilization of sport-for-development for refugees in international and domestic contexts that occur at the intersections of corporate social responsibility, international relations, and structural inequalities of race, gender and class.


Hayhurst, L.M.C. & McSweeney, M.J. (Forthcoming). Sport for Development and Peace: The Participatory Sport Sector. In J. Welty-Peachy (Ed.) Forming partnerships and linkages in Sport for Development and Peace: Considerations, tensions and strategies. Urbana, IL: Sagamore Publishers.

McSweeney, M.J., Hayhurst, LM.C. & Kidd, B. (Forthcoming). Corporate social responsibility, sport and development. In M. Li, E. Macintosh & G. Bravo (Eds.) International sport management (2nd edition). Champaign: Human Kinetics.

Alix Krahn

PhD Student

Alix Krahn

PhD Student

Alix is currently in her second year of her PhD in Kinesiology and Health Science studying under the supervision of Dr. Parissa Safai. Her research interests include power dynamics within the coach-athlete relationship, women in sports leadership and coach wellbeing. In addition to being a full time graduate student, Alix is an assistant coach at the University of Toronto working with the Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team. Having been an former university athlete and now a coach and researcher in university sport, she has dedicated her coaching and academic career to her mission statement which is to use courage, compassion and connection in order to build a sport community that enables everyone to become the best version of themselves.


Emily McCullogh

PhD Candidate

Emily McCullogh

PhD Candidate

Emily is a fourth year PhD candidate in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science. She has had an eclectic academic journey, studying International Development in her undergrad, Sustainability Studies in her masters and is now researching the experiences of care and caring in youth competitive sport. Throughout her studies a common theme has been the importance of relationships and the standards of care required so that vulnerable populations may be best served in their particular contexts. Her background in coaching volleyball at the club and college level sparked her specific interest in the relationships within competitive sport and how athletes are best served. She hopes to contribute to the bodies of literature and knowledge around child protection in sport and the education of sport coaches.


Rayka Modabberi

MSc Student

Rayka Modabberi

MSc Student

Rayka is currently a first year MSc student in Kinesiology and Health Sciences under the supervision of Dr. Parissa Safai. Her research interests focus on geriatrics, the provision of heath and care services, as well as the relationship between familial interactions and the quality of life. Her studies are driven by her passion to understand, and expand on the current field of knowledge regarding the care of elderly members of the population.


Elizabeth Kalashnikova

MSc Student

Elizabeth Kalashnikova

MSc Student

Elizabeth is currently a second year MSc student being co-supervised by Dr. Parissa Safai and Dr. Rebecca Bassett-Gunter. Prior to her studies at York University, Elizabeth completed her BSc (specialist in Psychology) with high distinction at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include the role of Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) on peoples’ psychological health, as well as exploring the quality of physical activity people partaking in DMT experience. Her studies intersect her passion for dance and the desire to study therapies that help people improve their health. She aspires to contribute in knowledge on programs that include DMT, as well as to knowledge on health in general.