Summer brings sunny days and more time spent outdoors, but with that extra playtime comes a higher risk for injury
Playground injuries send more than 200,000 children age 14 and younger to U.S. emergency rooms every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Mishaps run the gamut from bruises, sprains and slight cuts to concussions, dislocations and fractures; severe injuries, such as the latter three, account for approximately 45 percent of playground injuries, CDC data shows.
One of the leading causes of fractures in young children is the monkey bars. "Most people don't realize how dangerous monkey bars really are," says Kosmas Kayes, M.D., a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent. "But we've treated many broken wrists, elbows and forearms that have resulted from accidents on the monkey bars."
Whether your kids are playing on a playground or in your own backyard, always follow the first rule of safety: Make sure you or another adult is supervising the child. "A lot of injuries can be prevented – or at least minimized – with proper adult supervision," Dr. Kayes says.
You can't prevent every tumble, but you can ensure your little ones land on a safe surface when they slip. Nearly 80 percent of playground equipment-associated injuries are falls, mostly from an apparatus to the ground, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery. Only allow your children to climb and clamber where wood chips, sand or rubber safety mats cover the ground.
Once you determine the playing surface is acceptable, follow these tips to help your children enjoy a safe and fun playground experience:
Beware of burns. Metal isn't the only surface that can sear skin – plastic and rubber can, too. Test the temperature of surfaces your children might grasp or sit on, even on mild and cloudy days, and ensure they wear shoes and pants to protect their skin.
Keep it smooth. Prohibit your children from using playgrounds where rocks or tree roots could trip them up, and keep them away from equipment with sharp edges or protruding hardware.
Take notice of nets. Climbing a cargo net to the top of a make-believe fort can turn dangerous if the net openings measure 17 to 28 inches around the perimeter, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Openings of that size could trap a child's head. Measure each side of a single opening. If the sum of the four numbers doesn't fall within the aforementioned range, the net is safe.
Use as intended. Monkey bars become much less safe when children hang upside down from them, and seesaws shouldn't double as trampolines or balance beams. Ensure your children play on equipment properly.
If a playground is safe and age-appropriate, give your children the freedom to explore it – but always under your loving, watchful gaze.
For more tips like these, visit KidsHealthLine.com. For free Health advice 24/7, call 317-338-KIDS.
St.Vincent Health has partnered with the ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation to help prevent traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries by educating children and parents about staying safe on the playground, in the water and behind the wheel.