Playgrounds are attractive to children. They provide a place to have some fun and work off some steam. And maybe they give parents a bit of a break too. But just because a play area looks like it’s made for kids doesn’t mean that you can assume it is completely safe. Every year in the US, over 200,000 kids ages 14 and under end up in emergency rooms as the result of a playground injury. Many of the injuries could be prevented if both parents and children were better educated about safe practices to use while on a playground.
How Playground Injuries Occur
Playground injuries typically occur in one of two ways. The majority of playground injuries occur from falls. Injuries also occur when kids get entangled with equipment – either stuck or tangled with a cord or rope.
- Falls – 79% of playground injuries are from falls and 90% of the most severe playground injuries are from falls
- Entanglement – 58% of all playground fatalities are due to strangulation
Types of Injuries from Playground Accidents
Injuries from a playground can range from relatively minor to serious. Most playground-related injuries that are treated in emergency rooms are bruises, scrapes, cuts, and fractures. However, in recent years, emergency rooms have seen an increase in the number of traumatic brain injuries from playground-related accidents. Although thankfully not common, there are about 15 playground-related fatalities each year.
Who is More Likely to be Injured on a Playground?
The following statistics show that boys under 10 years old are more likely to suffer a serious injury on a playground.
- boys are more at risk for injury than girls
- ages 0-4 are most often injured on slides and swings
- ages 5-14 are most often injured on swings, monkey bars, and climbing equipment
- ages 5-9 are most likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury
How to Reduce the Risk of a Playground Injury
A little scrape or bruise is probably nothing to worry about and bound to happen as a part of growing up. But many of the more serious injuries that can occur on a playground can be avoided when care is taken to make sure the equipment is safe and your child knows how to use it properly. In addition, knowing where and how your child is playing can alert you to potential problems before they end in accidents. The following tips can help make your child's playground experience safe.
- Check out the equipment and surfacing underneath it – It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the equipment that your child will be playing on and make sure there are no obvious hazards that might cause an accident. Climbing equipment should have a soft, absorbent surface underneath to minimize the impact of falls. Higher areas should have railings or some type of guard to prevent falls. To avoid getting a head stuck, openings should be less than 3 ½ inches or larger than 9 inches.
- Show kids the proper way to use equipment – Improper use of equipment can lead to accidents. Kids need to sit (not stand) on swings. They should sit on a slide with both feet out in front (not go down head first on their back). Use both hands to hang on. Take turns - don’t have multiple people on something designed to hold one at a time.
- Supervise what kids are doing – It may be tempting to try and get a few minutes to yourself while the kids seem occupied. You need to pay attention so that you have the opportunity to stop something before it happens. Make sure your child is playing on age-appropriate equipment, using it correctly, and getting along well with other children. You want your child to wear proper clothing – tennis shoes and nothing with strings or that could get caught in the equipment.
No one wants what should be a fun afternoon at the playground to turn into a frantic trip to the emergency room – especially when many injuries need not happen at all. With a little pre-planning and a commitment to safe practices, using playground equipment can provide hours of healthy playtime for your kids this summer and for many summers to come.