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18 May 2017

Playgrounds aren't always just fun and games

Playgrounds have a darker side, and parents need to know what to look out for to prevent playground-related injuries.

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Playgrounds are a fun place for children to be, but no one takes note of the dangers lurking beneath the surface.

Although it may be quite entertaining for your child to go to the playground, rusty bars, litter and poorly maintained equipment can make these seemingly kid-friendly zones downright dangerous, according to a group of emergency medicine physicians.

Permanent disability

More than 200 000 children are treated in the emergency department each year for playground-related injuries – a dramatic increase in recent years, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

And about 20 000 of those children get treated for a traumatic brain injury, including concussion, every year. Kids can also break a bone, or even develop internal bleeding due to accidents that occur on a playground.

In South Africa things aren't any different. Every day more than 10 children die due to injuries, and many more are permanently disabled as a result of accidental injury.

Schools can also be unsafe, and about 20% treated at the Red Cross Children's Hospital's Trauma Unit, are injured at school.

Avoid playtime injuries

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) noted, however, many of these injuries are preventable.

"Many playground injuries can be avoided if parents are mindful about the risks, and teach children to obey safety rules," ACEP president, Dr Rebecca Parker, said in a news release from the organisation. "We encourage children to get outside and play to promote a healthier lifestyle, but we want to make sure our children are as safe as possible."

Roughly 75% of playground-related injuries occur in public places. In most cases, the playground equipment is at a school or daycare centre, research shows. The emergency physicians pointed out that parents, babysitters and other adult supervisors can help keep children safe on playgrounds by doing the following:

  • Pay attention. All children should be closely monitored on the playground. Even older kids need to be watched to ensure their safety.
  • Inspect the equipment. Check to make sure any playground apparatus a child is using is well-maintained. Be sure the area has enough cushioning to prevent injuries. It's also important to keep an eye out for broken bottles and other trash that could potentially cause an injury.
  • Protective gear. Children should always wear appropriate protective gear, such as mouth guards or shin guards, when taking part in sports activities. Teach children the importance of safety equipment.
  • Don't battle crowds. If a playground is very busy, come back another time. Children should be clearly visible to an adult supervisor at all times.
  • Consider age. Children should only use playground equipment that is age-appropriate. Younger kids should not play on equipment that is intended for older children and vice versa.
  • Remove hoods and strings. Children should remove hoods or clothing with strings while at the playground. Hoods can block side vision and drawstrings could present a choking hazard.
  • Follow the rules. Children should be expected to adhere to playground safety rules. They shouldn't run, push or shove other children. Kids should also be taught to be mindful of their surroundings, such as not walking in front of a swing or climbing up the front of a slide rather than using the ladder.

Read more:

Don't let playground injuries spoil the fun

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