Playground SafetyPlayground Safety Guide
Playgrounds are exciting, fun places for children. They can help to build dexterity, and they are a great place to make friends. Kids are marvelously inventive and use playground equipment in many different ways not intended by the manufacturers. Each year in the United States, more than 156,000 children under age 14 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries occurring on public playgrounds, according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC). There are many ways to prevent these injuries and to lessen the severity of the injuries that do occur.
Causes of Playground Injuries
The vast majority of injuries on the playground are connected with climbing equipment and swings.
Approximately 79% of equipment-related injuries are caused by falls. Most of these injuries are falls to the ground under equipment, rather than falling onto another piece of equipment. Children fall because they slip, lose their grip, or lose their balance while playing on monkey bars, swings, slides, merry-go-rounds, and seesaws. Often, they'll fall on their outstretched hand trying to protect themselves, and sustain a fracture involving the elbow. This type of elbow fracture (supracondylar fracture of the humerus) is the most common injury that requires a trip to the operating room for treatment. Often children are hurt not only by the fall, but by being struck by the equipment as they fall. Something as simple as drawstrings from a hooded sweatshirt can catch on a piece of playground equipment and can lead to a fall. Other injuries include falls that result from being struck by the same equipment the child was playing with, or as a result of being struck with moving equipment.
Many injuries are also related to slide use. A 2009 study found a relationship between shinbone (tibia) fractures and young children going down a slide on the lap of an adult. In many of these cases, the child's leg became stuck, but the adult and child could not stop moving down the slide. In other cases, the child's leg became twisted during the ride down.
A smaller number of playground injuries occur on teeter-totters and seesaws. To lesser degrees, injuries result from contact with sharp edges of equipment; impact with stationary equipment; and falling after being struck with some type of equipment other than what the child was playing on.
Parents and Injury Prevention
Close supervision by a responsible adult may be the most important factor in preventing playground injuries. Age appropriate equipment and carefully designed playground layouts, by themselves, won't be enough to prevent all injuries that may occur. Adults must provide focused supervision. They must instruct children in proper use of the equipment, and monitor and enforce playground rules.