Spring like temperatures inspire many kids to play outside. Playgrounds are fun, but they can also be dangerous…and there could be even more trouble closer to home.
The most common playground injury is a fall from equipment, like a climber, the monkey bars, or slides. Frequent injuries requiring medical treatment from these falls are broken bones and dislocations of joints. Kids can also injure themselves by getting hit by moving swings or getting clothing caught in equipment.
Broken bones can be very subtle in children because often there is no obvious deformity, such as a sharp angle. If your child has swelling or bruising over a bone, and tenderness on the bone or persistent pain, you should have them evaluated.
Most parents can drive their kids to the hospital when they have a broken bone. However, if the break is so severe that you can’t control the pain, the bone is sticking out of the skin, or when the accident involves trauma to the head or neck, do not hesitate to call 911.
Parents often wonder whether their kids are more likely to be injured on the playground or at home on backyard equipment. A recent study looked at about 40,000 playground injuries and found only 16% involved injuries on backyard equipment at home. This is probably due to the fact that many more kids have access to playground equipment than play sets at home.
There is also a difference in the severity of the injuries. Interestingly, kids who were injured at home were 30% more likely to remain in the hospital for their injuries and over 50% more likely to have a broken bone, especially a broken leg. This is compared to injuries at parks, schools, or daycare settings.
The surface underneath the equipment is to blame for these injuries. According to a report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission back in 2000, less than 10% of home playgrounds had proper landing surfaces beneath them, compared to 80% of public playgrounds.
While concrete and asphalt surfaces are not ideal, dirt and grass aren’t either. Due to a lot of foot traffic, the surface gets packed down which reduces its shock absorption. The best surface is about 9 inches of loose material like mulch, wood chips, or recycled rubber mulch underneath your play set.
The height of the equipment is also a factor. It is generally recommended that equipment should not be higher than 5 feet for preschoolers, and 7 feet for older kids.
There are additional things parents should look for. If it’s hot outside, check the temperature of the equipment, so that your child won’t get burned. Look for splinters or sharp corners on wooden parts. Make sure to look for loose joints, open chains, exposed bolts, sharp edges, and rust.
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