June 27, 2016

Preventing Playground Injuries

5 Things Parents Can Do to Help Prevent Playground Injuries

A new study has uncovered a seemingly conflicting trend: while playgrounds are getting safer, emergency room visits for traumatic brain injuries (TBI) at playgrounds have significantly increased in recent years.

The study found that over 21,000 children ages 14 and younger were treated for TBIs annually for 12 years. The majority of those injuries were associated with monkey bars, playground gyms, and swings. More than half of the kids injured were between the ages of 5 and 9.

While experts believe that some of the surge in the injury rate can be attributed to an increase in TBI diagnoses, some of it may be due to a rise in playground activity.

So what can parents and caregivers do to help prevent playground injuries? There’s no foolproof solution, but there are a few easy things you can do to reduce the risk of your child being hurt. Keep reading to find out what they are.

1. Choose the Right Play Area for Your Child’s Age

This is important, especially if you have children of different ages. While younger kids frequently want to imitate their older siblings, oftentimes this isn’t safe. Conversely, an older child playing amongst younger ones can create a safety hazard. You should do your best to keep your kids on age-appropriate play equipment.

  • Look for parks that have equipment designed for the following age groups: infants and toddlers under 2 years old, 2- to 5-year-old kids, and 5- to 12-year-old children.
  • It’s best if the play area for young children is separated from the area for older kids.

2. Supervise Your Child

This seems obvious for younger children and infants, but it also applies to older children. While younger kids might not know their limits or have the motor skills to keep themselves safe, older kids like to test their limits and may put themselves in harm’s way.

Make sure you can see your child on all play structures, and ensure that older kids aren’t interfering with younger kids’ play.

3. Check Playground Surfaces

Over the years, playgrounds have evolved from concrete play yards to highly engineered spaces designed with safety in mind. One of the biggest areas of improvement has been in surfaces, which are now better able to prevent serious injury in the event of a fall.

Here’s what you should look for when it comes to playground surfaces:

  • Concrete and asphalt are unacceptable. So are grass, soil, and packed-earth surfaces.
  • Look for wood chips, mulch, pea gravel, sand, or shredded rubber. Rubber mats are also a safe option.
  • Loose-fill surfacing materials should be at least 12 inches deep for equipment up to 8 feet high. The material shouldn’t be packed down or the cushioning effect will be reduced.
  • NO surfacing material is safe if the combined height of the equipment and your child (standing at the highest point) exceeds 12 feet.
  • The surface should extend at least 6 feet past the equipment.
  • Make sure that the surfaces of slides, handrails, and steps aren’t too hot. They can heat up quickly in the summertime, (especially if they’re made of metal) and contact burns can occur within seconds.

Keep in mind that even proper surfacing can’t prevent all injuries, especially when kids are playing on high equipment.

4. Check the Equipment Design

At first glance everything at the playground might look fine with no visible rust, damage, or wear and tear. However, there are certain design guidelines that must be met to ensure kids’ safety:

  • Guardrails should be in place for elevated pieces like platforms and ramps.
  • Structures that are more than 30 inches high should be at least 9 feet apart.
  • Swings should be limited to 2 per bay.
  • “Baby” swings with bucket seats should be in their own bay.
  • Swings should be spaced at least 24 inches apart and there should be 30 inches between a swing and the support frame.
  • All openings in play equipment should be at least 9 inches wide OR less than 3 ½ inches wide to prevent a child’s arm, leg, head, or other body part from getting trapped.

5. Teach Your Kids About Playground Safety

It’s not just parents who play a part in playground safety. The kids themselves can help reduce injuries. Here are some general rules your child can follow that will help keep everyone safe.

  • Don’t roughhouse on jungle gyms, slides, swings, or other equipment.
  • Set bags, backpacks, etc. away from the equipment so nobody trips on them.
  • Use equipment properly – always slide feet first, don’t stand on swings, and don’t climb outside guardrails.
  • Wear a bike helmet every time you ride a bicycle or scooter, but take it off while on playground equipment.
  • Always check to make sure no other kids are in the way before you slide or jump off of equipment.

Playground Injuries Aren’t Always Avoidable

Even the most safety-conscious parent can’t prevent every accident from happening. This is especially true in the case of defective playground equipment. Poor maintenance, faulty design, and improper installation are just some of the issues that can lead to serious playground injuries.

If your child was injured at a playground and you have legal questions, feel free to get in touch with us 24/7.

"Playground Injuries on the Rise; More Children Treated for Traumatic Brain Injuries Despite Industry Improvements." HealthyChildren.org. May 2, 2016.
"Playground Safety." KidsHealth.org. July 2014.

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