As the weather warms, children and families will flock to parks or playgrounds for fresh air, fun, and activity.
While all the climbing, swinging, hanging, and balancing build dexterity and aids in bone and muscle development, playgrounds can be dangerous places for your little athlete. Failure to follow safety rules or playing on unsafe equipment can mean broken bones, strains, sprains, concussions, or life-threatening injuries.
The National Program for Playground Safety estimates 150,000 to 200,000 children are injured each year on playground equipment. Falls, the cause of most reported injuries, often lead to broken bones or severe sprains. These types of injuries often need orthopedic care. The first step to avoid injury is to assess the area. Here are a few things you should check out before letting children play.
Make sure playground equipment is safe.
Many playground injuries are the result of damaged equipment. If you notice broken equipment or hazards nearby, don’t let your children play on that piece of equipment. Direct his or her attention in a different area. After you get home, contact your local parks department. Voice your concerns. Ask them to repair the playground equipment to meet safety standards.
Make sure landing surfaces are soft.
The area under and around the playground equipment should be padded with fall-zone material. Safety rubber or at least 12 inches of wood chips, sand, or pea gravel acts as a cushion in the event of a fall. If a child falls, a fall-zone minimizes the risk of injury. The fall-zone surface should extend a minimum of six feet from all sides of the playground equipment. Surfaces in front of and behind swing sets should extend twice the distance as the height of the swing set when measured from the center.
Be aware of small spaces; they can be dangerous.
Approximately seven percent of playground injuries occur because children become stuck or trapped. Check the openings between ladder rungs. Are they less than three and a half inches or more than nine inches wide? If so, don’t let your child play on the ladders. Check for other areas in the playground that may trap a child’s leg, arm, or foot and cause injury.
Nearly 40 percent of playground injuries are caused by sharp objects.
Children suffer bruises, scrapes, and cuts from sharp edges of playground equipment that are in disrepair. To minimize the risk of these types of injuries, inspect bolts and screws to make sure they are flush. Check the hooks and chains on swings to make sure the links are closed and strong. Be on the lookout for wood or metal that can cause injury if bumped or scraped.
Swings are popular on playgrounds. The safest swing seats are made of plastic or rubber. Avoid swing seats that are made from wood or metal and you may avoid splinters, burns, and scrapes.
Higher play surfaces pose more risk.
Playground equipment higher than 30 inches above the ground should have handrails or guard rails for safety. High playground equipment should also be located at least nine feet away from other structures. The area should have a large, thick fall-zone surface to absorb the force in the event of a fall.
Adult supervision can prevent playground injuries.
It’s tempting to send the kids to the park or the backyard for a break. But without supervision, it may be an accident waiting to happen. Adult supervision reduces risky behaviors.
Some kids want to try the tricks they’ve watched on television or in Internet videos. Talk to your child. Tell him or her about the dangers associated with stunts. Superhero-style jumps and homemade-launch devices that look cool in videos often lead to serious real-life injuries.
Whether your charge is playing in the backyard or at a community park, talk to him or her about the dangers of inappropriate use of the playground equipment.
Set some ground rules for play.
Let your child know what is acceptable and what is not when on the monkey bars, merry-go-round or the jungle gym fort. Remind him or her that consequences always follow behavior. When it comes to breaking playground safety rules, those consequences may mean a trip to the Walk-in and an arm or leg in a cast for the rest of the summer.
The orthopedic experts at Bone & Joint would rather not see you for a playground injury this summer.
Be careful. Be wise. And most importantly, have fun on the playground.