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Avoid Injuries With These Playground Safety Tips

Girl plays safely on a playground

Playground related accidents account for upwards of 200,000 injuries in the U.S. each year. It’s normal for kids to experience bumps and bruises, but a little bit of common sense can help prevent more serious outcomes.

James Dodington, MD, CPST, FAAP, Medical Director of the Center for Injury and Violence Prevention at Yale New Haven Hospital and Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, says the most common injuries are extremity injuries, especially arm fractures related to monkey bars and climbing gyms.

“If a child has an injury in the playground, either witnessed or unwitnessed, and then they’re not able to bear weight, walk as they normally would, or they’re not using their arm normally, that’s a reason to seek care,” said Dr. Dodington. “Clearly there’s some more concerning potential injuries like head injuries that can be experienced on playgrounds. They are less common, but if there is true concern that a child is altered or not acting like themselves, an emergency department visit would be warranted.”

Symptoms of a concussion can be subtle including decreased energy, dizziness or nausea. If caregivers suspect their child suffered a concussion, they should monitor their child closely and alert their pediatrician.

Preventing playground injuries

When used appropriately, updated playground designs in recent years have helped to reduce the number of injuries.

“Most playgrounds these days meet strict standards from a construction standpoint in terms of minimizing risks of catching clothing on playgrounds, minimizing the risk of issues like falls from larger heights and slides. There’s often covered sections that disallow kids from exiting the slide too early,” said Dr. Dodington. “So, we've seen a lot of improvement overall in those kinds of risks. There still are, of course, plenty of ways kids can find to get injured on playgrounds, though.”

Some ways to help avoid playground injuries include:

  • Never go down the slide with a child on your lap. If their leg gets caught, they could get seriously injured.
  • Teach kids how to go down slides properly, always feet first, never head first.
  • Small children should not be climbing on open structures greater than 30 inches.
  • Make sure kids are wearing proper footwear and clothing.
  • If the ice cream truck pulls up, make sure kids aren’t running towards the street. Injuries related to cars or other vehicles can be life-threatening.

Outdoor playtime safety at home

Since playgrounds in public spaces are designed with little bodies in mind, they can be safer than outdoor spaces at home. That’s especially true if backyards have zip lines, unregulated play structures or pools.

Floaties or other water devices for kids don’t ensure a safe environment. All pools at home should have a four-sided fence around them that can be closed, and the pool should not be accessible to small children. Even with a safe set-up, guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics states an unimpaired adult should always be within arm’s reach of a child if they’re in or near a body of water.

“Already this year we have seen in our emergency department drownings, and that happens every single year,” said Dr. Dodington. “We want to just point out that it’s all about parents and guardians watching closely.”