Playgrounds serve as a central hub for communities, yet playground-related injuries remain a concern among parents, educators and health care providers. More than 200,000 playground-related injuries are treated in the U.S. emergency departments annually among children 18 years and younger.1 The leading causes of playground injuries are falls, impact/strike, cut/pinch/crush, entrapment/entanglement, and trip/slip. Playground-related injuries commonly treated in the emergency department are fractures, contusions/abrasions, and lacerations.
Definition: Playgrounds and outdoor play equipment can be found in backyards, schools, day care centers, local parks, community recreation centers, and more. They enable children and youth to exercise and play. However, they can also present an injury hazard if they are not constructed safely or maintained properly and if children are allowed to play on them unsupervised.
Magnitude of the Problem: According to Safe Kids,
- It is estimated that close to 220,000 children 14 or under went to the ER for injuries associated with playground equipment in 2009.
- 57% of estimated playground-related injuries treated in ERs occurred at either schools or parks.
- Falls account for over 75% of all playground-related injuries.
- CPSC investigated 40 deaths between 2001 and 2008. Of these, 68% were the result of hanging/asphyxiation. 7% were caused by neck/head injuries. The rest were due to other causes.
Prevention: Parents, care givers, child care providers, and teachers should supervise children on playgrounds at all times. Regulations mandating how playgrounds are constructed (e.g. installing protective surface materials) can help to make these areas safer for children and reduce injuries. Currently, 15 states have passed laws mandating that U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission safety guidelines and warnings on playground surfaces and age-appropriate equipment be followed. Regular inspections and maintenance of playground equipment are essential to keeping kids safe.
Reports of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) among adults, particularly in professional sports, are often in the news. But what about TBIs among children and youth? In 2012, an estimated 329,290 children (age 19 or younger) were treated in emergency departments (EDs) for sports and recreation-related injuries that included a diagnosis of concussion or TBI. From 2001 to 2012, the rate of ED visits for sports and recreation-related injuries with a diagnosis of concussion or TBI, alone or in combination with other injuries, more than doubled among children (age 19 or younger).
Play is an important part of childhood. Despite the improvements in playground equipment and surfacing and messages about the importance of supervision on playgrounds, 235,000 children are seen in U.S. hospital emergency rooms with injuries associated with playground equipment each year. Most injuries occur when a child falls from the equipment onto the ground.