Playground Injuries

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October 24, 2012
Edward Smith

While playing and play are very important to the healthy development of kids, playgrounds can be dangerous places in which to play. Ideally, playgrounds are the place for motor development, cognitive development, the development of social skills and perceptual development. When they work appropriately, and with proper supervision, playgrounds can be a rich and vibrant place for kids to grow and learn.

Playgrounds, unfortunately, can be injurious or fatal to kids. The leading cause of injuries on the playground related to equipment includes strangulation on equipment. This seems to be more prevalent in home playgrounds and can be fatal. In non-fatal injuries, the most common injury type is because of falls. These tend to happen more commonly on school, childcare, park, or other public type of playground.

Playgrounds in the US, during an important survey, were given a C grade in terms of physical hazards and age appropriate design. Adult responsibility over the children playing was found to be a crucial part of the prevention of injuries and was lacking in certain cases. Young kids and old kids alike need age appropriate intervention whenever they are playing at playgrounds. Children who aren’t old enough to play on a piece of playground should refrain from attempting to play on them.

In one study, performed since 1990, about 147 children have died from something related to the equipment on the playground; nearly have of these children died on home playground sets. About 215,000 kids under the age of 15 were treated in emergency rooms for non-fatal playground equipment injuries. Most kids were between the ages of 5 and 14. The injury rate on public playgrounds has doubled since 1980. About a third of deaths and 75 percent of injuries happened on public grounds, making this type of injury the number one related injury to kids over the age of five.

More than 40 percent of the time, the problem was lack of supervision. This is a more common phenomenon on school playgrounds when compared to park playgrounds and childcare playgrounds. While strangulation accounted for more than half of the deaths, other deaths occurred due to falls to the ground or falls onto other pieces of equipment.
Falls are the cause of 80 percent of injuries and head injuries account for 75 percent of all fall-related deaths onto other equipment or onto the ground. Summer months are the most common time for these injuries. Most injuries happen on climbing equipment, when it comes to public playgrounds. On the other hand, two thirds of injuries at home involve injuries related to swings.

The types of injuries seen include severe fractures, internal injuries, dislocations, concussions and amputations. The cost of these injuries is steep, with about $1.2 billion dollars in healthcare costs being spent on injuries related to playgrounds.

In another study, playgrounds in inner city areas were more poorly maintained, resulting in a higher risk of injury to the children playing on this type of equipment.