About 200,000 children younger than 14 visit the emergency room every year after an injury on the playground. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that concussion and traumatic brain injury account for 10% of those incidents.
Take these steps to help keep your child safe when you visit the playground.
Know the risks
The CDC says that 79% of playground injuries and 90% of the most severe injuries result from falls. Most injuries, 75%, take place on public or school playgrounds rather than on home equipment.
Nearly half of head and facial injuries that occur on the playground affect children ages 4 and younger. Other common injuries include elbow fractures from falling on an outstretched hand and shin fractures from getting a leg stuck in the equipment.
Use age-appropriate equipment
Playground equipment must have a label with the recommended ages for use. Avoid letting your child play on equipment meant for older kids. Kids who are younger than 5 should not use equipment higher than 4 feet. Supervise children carefully at the playground, especially when they are climbing. Do not go down the slide with your child on your lap, since this raises the risk for a leg fracture.
Look for safe environments
Inspect a new playground before letting your kids play. Play areas should feature at least 12 inches of shock-absorbing material below equipment, such as sand, mulch, shredded tires or wood chips. High areas should have protective guardrails. Do not let children use broken or poorly maintained playground equipment.
Follow the rules
Kids should never wrestle or roughhouse on playground equipment. Using equipment correctly is important. Standing on swings, sliding head-first and climbing outside guardrails can result in a serious fall. Keep kids safely away from swings that other children are using to prevent a collision.
When your child does fall at the playground, seek medical help right away. TBI can result in significant disability if left untreated. Fractures and contusions are also commonly associated with playground accidents.