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The numbers of playground injuries are on the rise. In the year 2002 alone, there were 486,971 playground-related injuries among persons younger than age 20, treated in hospital emergency rooms and doctors offices.
Most injuries occur when children fall from the equipment onto the ground. Often they are hurt not only by the fall, but by being struck by the equipment as they fall.
Orthopaedic surgeons remind parents and community officials to inspect neighborhood and school yard playgrounds. The type of surface on which the playground is built is the most important factor in reducing the number and severity of injuries due to falls. Look for softer surfaces such as engineered wood mulch, shredded tires, or cushioned rubber safety surfacing. Asphalt, concrete, soil, packed dirt, grass and turf are not recommended. In addition, the greater the height of the equipment, the deeper the surfacing material depth must be to provide enough impact absorption in a fall.
Adult supervision is a key component in safe play. Other important factors that can help reduce the incidence of injury are playground design, and equipment installation and maintenance. Never leave your child unsupervised. Having an adult at the playground to monitor youngsters behavior will reduce the likelihood that the children will run in front of moving swings or go down the slide when another child is still on it.
A well-designed playground includes separate areas for active play such as swinging, and quiet play, such as digging in sandboxes. Spaces for preschoolers should be located away from areas where older, more active children play. Playground equipment should be made of weather-resistant materials with railings, steps and handholds scaled for children. Manufacturers instructions for proper installation and spacing should be followed carefully, including recommendations for maintenance.
For additional information on playground safety, call toll-free: 1-800-824-BONES or send a self-addressed (business size) envelope to Playgrounds, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, P.O. Box 1998, Des Plaines, IL. 60017. Internet users can download the Academys playground safety brochure and fact sheets from the Prevent Injuries America! section of the Academy's web site: www.orthoinfo.org.
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