Child Safety - Miller & Zois

Playground Safety

Kids on PlaygroundKids love playgrounds. They are a great place for fun and exercise, but they always involve some inherent danger. Historically, playgrounds have been the cause of countless broken arms and other injuries.

Fortunately, playgrounds today are much safer than they were decades ago. In the past, most playground equipment was made out of metal with few safety design features. Slides could burn your child’s skin off their thighs. Children could go flying off fast spinning merry-go-rounds. The grounds beneath old-school playgrounds was usually just dirt or mulch.

We have come a long way since the old days. Modern playgrounds often have innovative play features with built-in safety designs and rubber ground covers. All of these advancements have made today’s playgrounds considerably safety for kids. Despite all the new changes, however, children can and do still get hurt while on the playground. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that over 200,000 children ages 14 and under visited the emergency room for traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result of playground accidents.

Playground Injuries

Playground injuries can vary from minor bumps or bruises to more severe ones such as broken bones or sprains. The following include injuries that can result from a playground:

  • Minor bumps, bruises, and cuts
  • Broken bones, spines, and strains
  • Injuries to internal organs
  • Dislocations
  • Concussions
  • Contusions
  • Strangulation from playground equipment

Falls are the cause of 80 percent of all playground-related injuries. According to the National Program for Playground Safety, equipment such as climbers, swings, slides, and overhead ladders are some examples of equipment that are associated with injuries. The CDC reports that over half of all emergency department visits that involve playgrounds consist of fractures and contusions. Around three-quarters of playground equipment-related injuries occur in public playgrounds found in recreation centers or schools.


Concussions may occur in a playground setting because of how common falls are. They are a form of TBI caused by bumps, blows, or jolts to the head. They can also be caused by impact to the body that causes quick back and forth movements to the head and brain. This movement can result in the brain to either bounce around or twist inside the skull. Chemical changes in the brain results from this. Sometimes, the brain cells could also be stretched or damaged. Playground-related concussions primarily involve monkey bars, other climbing equipment, and swings.

Concussion signs can reported by both parents’ observation, and what sensations that the child reports. They include the following:

  • Signs that parents observe
  • Dazed or stunned appearance on their child
  • Child struggles to follow instructions
  • Clumsy movement
  • Unconsciousness, even if it occurred briefly
  • Changes in mood, behavior, or personality
  • Cannot remember events before or after the hit or fall
  • Signs that children report
  • Headache or a pressure sensation in the head
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Balance issues
  • Dizziness
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Increased light or noise sensitivity
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion, concentration, or memory issues
  • Not “feeling well” mentally
Risk Factors for Playground-Related Injuries

Playground-related injuries can happen at well-maintained playgrounds. They can also occur to any child, regardless of age or gender. However, the CDC reports a variation in injury risk among different genders, age groups, and playground maintenance. While playground-related injuries can happen to both boys and girls, boys tend to be more at risk of getting hurt in a playground setting.

  • Children between the ages of five and nine have highest rate of playground-related emergency department visits. These injuries primarily occur in a school setting, especially on monkey bars and other climbing equipment. Well-maintained playgrounds are less risky for children than playgrounds with equipment that is either rusty or broken.
Adult Supervision

Adult supervision is the very least you should do to prevent playground-related injuries. Only you can ensure that your child uses the right equipment and does not behave inappropriately in the playground. Adults can also provide immediate assistance and first aid care as well. They can look out for certain factors in a playground that could increase the risk of injury as well. Children must always have adult supervision while on the playground at all times.

What to Look out for While at the Playground

While watching your child at the playground, observe your surroundings to see if there are any potential hazards or safety equipment around. They include:

  • Protective surfaces: Surfaces meant to protect children from fall-related injuries should be made from wood chips,mulch, wood fibers, sand, shredded tires, or rubber mats. They must be at least a foot deep.
  • Age-appropriate equipment: Make sure you are aware of what kind of playground equipment your child can use at their current age level.
  • Guard rails: Make sure equipment such as slides have guard rails. They help prevent your child from falling off the top of equipment.
  • Hardware that may cause protrusions: Playground equipment may include hardware that could impale or cut a child. They include belts, hooks, and rungs. The equipment may also catch strings or articles of clothing. While at the playground, your child should not wear drawstring hooded sweatshirts.
  • Openings that may cause head entrapments: Make sure there are no openings in the playground that are between 3 and a half to 9 inches. Within this range, your child’s head may get stuck.
  • Tripping hazards: Watch out for material that your child may trip on. These include rocks and tree stumps.
  • Sharp edges: Some equipment may contain sharp edges that could cut your child.
  • Unsuitable playground equipment: Some playground equipment should not be used in a public playground. One such equipment that should not be found on a playground is monkey bars, which cause a significant amount of injuries. The injury risk for monkey bars is so high that experts recommend their removal from all playgrounds.