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April 24, 2023

Staying Safe on Playgrounds

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year, more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger go to U.S. hospital emergency departments with injuries associated with playground equipment. More than 20,000 of these children are treated for a traumatic brain injury, including concussion.

As the weather warms up and trips to the park become frequent, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the risks on playgrounds and how you can prevent injuries.

Check for Playground Hazards

Nearly 80% of playground injuries are caused by falls. Watch out for these potential hazards when taking kids to the playground, and report any hazards observed.

Improper ground surfaces: Surfaces around playground equipment should have at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand or pea gravel, or mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials. Playgrounds should be free of exposed concrete footings, rocks or tree stumps.

Overcrowded play areas: The area under and around play equipment should be a minimum of 6 feet in all directions while swing set areas should be twice the height of the suspending bar both in back and front of the swings. Structures more than 30 inches high should be at least 9 feet apart.

Unprotected elevated areas: Platforms higher than 30 inches should have guardrails or barriers.

Head entrapment spaces: Openings between rails, bars, rungs and even ropes of cargo nets should be less than 3 1/2 inches or more than 9 inches.

Sharp points and edges: Playground equipment should be free of protruding bolt ends, “S” hooks, and other sharp points and edges.

Visit the American Academy of Pediatrics webpage on playground safety to learn more.

Avoid Strangulation Hazards

The American Academy of Pediatrics cautions that children should not wear or play with anything that could get caught on equipment and become a strangulation hazard.

  • Never attach or allow children to attach ropes, jump ropes, clotheslines or pet leashes to play equipment
  • Leave sweatshirts with drawstrings and necklaces at home
  • Remove bike helmets when playing on the playground

Be Cautious of Too Much Sun Exposure

The National Program for Playground Safety reports that only 3% of public playgrounds assessed had full sun protection from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., peak exposure hours, while 30% had partial shade. The remaining 67% of public playgrounds were exposed to full sun during the peak hours.

  • Limit playtime at peak sun exposure time and familiarize yourself with the signs of heat illnesses
  • Avoid burns; if playground equipment is hot to the touch, it is too hot for your child’s bare skin

Allow Only Age-Appropriate Activities

The Consumer Product Safety commission lists age-appropriate equipment in the Public Playground Safety Handbook. And remember, there is no substitute for parental supervision, especially for young children.

Concussion and Youth Sports

Up to 1.9 million children each year are treated for a recreational or sports-related concussion in the U.S. Learn how to identify concussion symptoms and steps to keep kids safer on the playing field. Learn the signs.

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