Injuries are unavoidable in children. My kids, especially my daughter, love the playground. They love any playground, but preferably one with some sort of structure that elevates their bodies to a height that makes me nervous.
Despite the many hours that they spend jumping, climbing and sliding as a family we have had very few traumatic experiences while touring the playgrounds of NYC. In my professional life, however, I treat many kids that have playground injuries. Are there factors that may make some playgrounds safer than others?
It turns out that there is quite a body of literature on this subject. In one recent report lead by Lara Joan Branson, injury rates varied directly with the playground surface (comparing a rubbery soft kind vs. a hard surface).
They evaluated all injuries occurring at the playgrounds of Canadian schools during the 2007-8 school year. Most of the injuries occurred in boys (55%) and between the ages of 4 and 8 (71%) and most of them were low on the severity scale.
What playground equipment is the worst?
Monkey bars. About a third of all injuries occur on them. The ever-loved slide comes in at a distant second place at 12%.
The upper limb was injured in 14% of kids, the second most common body part injured after head/face injuries. Most of the injuries, fortunately, were simple abrasions and bruises. Not surprisingly, fewer injuries occurred on softer surfaces, but the differences were statistically significant only during springtime.
Has this changed how we live?
Not really, but I do help my kids out when they are on monkey bars since this seems to be an injury hotspot. Use a playground with a softer surface if possible. And take solace in the fact that severe injuries are very uncommon.
Take home message? Let your kids play!
Paediatr Child Health. 2012; 17(9):485-9. The effect of surface and season on playground injury rates. Branson LJ1, Latter J, Currie GR, Nettel-Aguirre A, Embree T, Hagel BE.
This post does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on any web site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.