1000 SW Jackson Suite 230
Dennis Cooley, MD
No. 1 Cause of Injury in Elementary School: Playground Falls
Playground accidents are the leading cause of injury to children in elementary school. Each year, in the United States, approximately 150,000 children ages 5 to 14 go to the emergency room with accidental injuries involving playground equipment — and 3 out of 4 playground accidents occur on public playgrounds, including school facilities, as opposed to backyard play equipment.
Most playground injuries are not fatal — about 10 children per year die from injuries involving playground equipment, mostly from strangulation when a piece of loose clothing or jewelry gets caught on equipment or the child’s head gets stuck between climbing bars. However, falls can also cause fatal injuries or permanent disability.
“A child who falls 10 feet is at risk of spinal cord injury, paralysis and even death,” says Jan Stegelman, Safe Kids Kansas coordinator. “Protective surface materials can make a life-and-death difference.”
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issues guidelines for playground surfacing and age-appropriate warning labels on playground equipment. In 15 states, some or all of the guidelines in the CPSC’s Handbook for Public Playground Safety are mandatory under state law.
“Nothing can take the place of active supervision, but we do need to make sure our kids are playing in safe environments in the first place,” says Stegelman “The ground should be covered 12 inches deep with shredded rubber, hardwood fiber mulch, pea gravel or fine sand, extending at least six feet in all directions around the equipment.”
Even with proper surfacing, teachers and playground monitors need to keep kids in sight and in reach on the playground. “Simply being in the same place as the children isn’t necessarily supervising,” says Stegelman. “Kids on a playground need an adult’s undivided attention.”
For outdoor play, children’s clothing and outerwear should be free of drawstrings and should fit snugly to minimize the risk of getting stuck in a piece of equipment. Do not allow kids to wear helmets, necklaces, purses or scarves on the playground or engage in any pushing, shoving or crowding around playground equipment.
The CPSC handbook is available at www.cpsc.org or 800-638-2772. “Before your child goes back to school, you might want to take a look at the school playground and, if necessary, discuss the CPSC guidelines with school authorities,” says Stegelman.
For more information about playground safety, visit www.usa.safekids.org.
Safe Kids Kansas, Inc. is a nonprofit Coalition of 67 statewide organizations and businesses dedicated to preventing accidental injuries to Kansas children ages 0-14. Local coalitions and chapters are located in Allen, Anderson, Atchison, Clay, Coffey, Dickinson, Doniphan, Douglas, Ellis, Finney, Ford, Franklin, Geary, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Labette, Leavenworth, Marion, Marshall, McPherson, Meade, Mitchell, Montgomery, Nemaha, Osage, Pottawatomie, Republic, Rice, Riley, Saline, Smith, Shawnee, Wabaunsee, Wilson and Woodson Counties, as well as the cities of Chanute, Emporia, Leavenworth, Norton, Pittsburg, the Wichita Area and the Metro Kansas City Area. Safe Kids Kansas a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations whose mission is to prevent accidental childhood injury. The lead agency for Safe Kids Kansas is the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. For more information visit www.safekidskansas.org.