Playground Injuries Not So Common

Serious Playground Injuries at Schools and Parks Low, Study shows

From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 12, 2003 -- Playgrounds are a fun place for kids, but they also stir up anxieties of watchful parents when it comes to injuries. Parents may now be able to rest easier: A new study shows that the odds of your child having a playground injury are slim.

There have been numerous studies done to make playgrounds safer. Injury prevention efforts have mainly focused on height of equipment and what makes for the most effective surfaces to absorb the shock when a child falls. But the study, appearing in the latest issue of Injury Prevention, investigates the actual odds of a child hurting himself on the playground.

For two years, Australian researchers reviewed emergency room charts on all children who had playground injuries. Secondly, researchers also observed kids at play on five different pieces of playground equipment in 16 parks and schools. Researchers included the rates of injury from these playgrounds as well.

Researchers analyzed usage of typical playground equipment: climbing equipment, horizontal ladders, track rides, slides, and swings. The most popular pieces of playground equipment among kids were:

  • Climbing equipment
  • Horizontal ladders
  • Slides

During the course of the study, 117 kids were injured on public school equipment and sought medical treatment at the emergency room. Thirteen of them occurred at the schools under observation. Horizontal ladders were the biggest culprits of injury at schools and parks, causing more than half of them (52%). But they were also the most used piece of equipment in the study.

When all was tallied, the annual rate of playground injury on the five types of equipment for the 16 schools was 0.59 per 100,000 uses of equipment.

The average injury rate was even lower at parks. The average annual number of injured children in the 16 parks was 3.5 children, coming in at 0.26 injuries per 100,000 uses.

Finally, researchers conclude that "play is a critical element of child growth and development and opportunities to increase play must be balanced with concerns for safety." They add that injury-prevention methods should focus on individual pieces of equipment that rate high with kids, "children's developmental needs to play, and the effects of changing playground equipment at the expense of reducing challenging play opportunities."

SOURCE: Nixon, J. Injury Prevention, September 2003; vol 9: pp 210-213.