More than 200,000 children under the age of 14 are treated in emergency rooms each year for playground injuries. With school either out or almost out for the summer, health experts are warning parents to take a closer look at where their kids swing and slide. Dr. David Shapiro, an orthopaedic surgeon at Cleveland Clinic, says playgrounds are fun, but can be a dangerous place.
"There can be head injuries. There can be hand and wrist injuries from falls. There can be ankle and foot injuries from twisting," he warned.
The latest statistics from the consumer product safety commission finds fractures topping the list of playground injuries followed by bruises, cuts, strains and sprains. Nearly 70% of all playground injuries are caused by a fall or faulty equipment.
Often, kids will fall on their outstretched hand to protect themselves, but elbow injuries are common, too. In fact, researchers with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons say fractures of the humerus, which is the bone in the upper arm, most often require surgery.
A 2009 study also found a link between fractures and children going down the slide in a parent's lap.
"Every playground toy has an appropriate way to use it. I mean, slides should be single file, feet first and in some of the public playgrounds the slides are designed so that only one person can fit in at a time, there's a cover over the front that forces the kids to go down feet first," explained Shapiro.
The top four playground equipment pieces associated with injuries are climbers, swings, slides, and overhead ladders. Shapiro says adult supervision is the easiest way to prevent an injury, especially if your child is under five.
"You want to make sure that there is some age separation," Shapiro advised. "So, again, the tiny kids are protected from the middle-sized kids, who are protected from the big ones. I think you want to see what level of adult supervision is available. I think you want to make sure the playground equipment is well maintained."
Shapiro says parents should also make sure there is an appropriate base under the playground equipment.