Playgrounds over the last forty years have become significantly safer when taking a look at the high metal slides and tall monkey bars of years past. However, every year more than 20,000 children under that age of 14 are admitted to the Emergency Room for injuries relating to unsafe playground play.
Seventy-five percent of playground injuries happen at a public playground or school. Even though playgrounds today have reduced the height of equipment and offer softer landing surfaces, injuries like brain injuries, broken bones, fractures, and more still occur. As the warm weather bring us outside to play, it is important to remember to keep alert and make sure that the playground is safe for your child.
Adult supervision is one of the most important ways to prevent injuries, as well as aid quickly if an injury does occur. Children cannot always gauge distances or foresee unsafe situations. Supervising children at play can result in less dangerous situations and assisting/providing first aid if an injury occurs.
The playground’s top three pieces of equipment that causes injuries are the monkey bars, climbing equipment, and swings. Keeping an eye on children especially when using these pieces of equipment is important to ensure their safety.
What to Notice
To prevent injury at the playground, it is important to take note of the different areas of potential injury.
- Improper Protective Surfaces (g., wood chips, mulch, wood fibers, sand, pea gravel, and rubber) – Protective surfaces should be at least 12 inches deep to help with a potential child injury from playground equipment. Concrete, asphalt, and blacktop, along with other hard surfaces, can result in serious injuries no matter if a child is running or jumping.
- Inadequate Space – Each piece of playground equipment needs to have plenty of space around them to avoid moving parts bumping and hitting other equipment or children in play. Every piece of equipment should be at minimum 6 feet apart from each other, 12 feet to be safe, especially for swing sets.
- Hazards – Several possible hazards exist on a playground. Protrusion such as bolts, hooks, rungs, or sharp objects can result in cuts or serious harm to Additionally, head entrapment hazards occur when openings are bigger than 9 inches wide between railings or gaps allowing children to get their little body parts stuck. Lack of maintenance of equipment can also result in sharp edges, splintered or split equipment.
- Inappropriate Play – Children should understand that pushing, roughhousing, tripping others or using equipment improperly can result in not only injuries to others, but to themselves.
- Weather can play a huge part in how injuries occur. If it has recently rained, make sure that surfaces are not slippery. If the temperature outside is extremely hot and the sun is out, make sure that the equipment is not hot enough to burn. Going down a metal slide or touching metal handrails and steps can result in contact burns within seconds.
It is also important to make sure that a child is appropriately dressed. Clothing like hoodies can result in potential strangulation, while untied shoes can cause trips and falls. Applying sunscreen is essential and keeping the child away from other hazards such as dog leashes, belts, etc. can help reduce accidental injury.
A child should also interact with age-appropriate playground equipment. A three-year-old should not be riding a slide meant for individuals over ten years of age, and vice versa.
If you believe a child has suffered an injury, it is important to have them seen by a medical professional quickly. After a fall or a bump to the head or body, there is a possibility of a concussion. Observing the child and looking for signs of a concussion (being dazed, memory issues, clumsiness, slow speech, etc.) is essential. If there is any doubt about a possible concussion, seek medical attention immediately.
Keeping safe at the playground is just one way to make sure your summer is off to a great start.
Sources: National Safety Council, KidsHealth from Nemours, CDC