September 8, 2003
Methodist Rehabilitation Center urges parents to think first about playground safety
By Jim Albritton
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—As energetic, fun-seeking children fill playgrounds this school year, physicians at Methodist Rehabilitation Center are urging parents to think first about play safety.
“Because many playgrounds are unsafe, parents and school educators need to be more involved in playground supervision, ” said Dr. Rahul Vohra, medical director at Methodist Rehab. “Always check the area for hazards and keep children in close proximity.”
The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 200,000 children will be injured this year on American playgrounds. Dr. Vohra says the most common types of injuries are fractures, dislocations and concussions caused by falls and collisions.
Lauren Fairburn, director of Think First, Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s statewide injury prevention program, says parents can help avoid such injuries by conducting a thorough safety check of areas where their children play. She recommends first looking at the materials underfoot.
“Seventy percent of playground injuries are the result of falls,” Fairburn said. “That is why it is so important to have a shock-absorbing surface like pea gravel or sand in the playground area.”
Swings can be another hazard, said Fairburn, especially if their seats are made of wood or metal. “We recommend that play areas include soft swing seats and that the swings are placed away from other playground equipment,” she said. “You should also make sure you use full-bucket seats for young children and allow only two swings in each supporting framework, at least 24 inches apart.”
“Playground equipment for children two to five-years-old should be low to the ground, have areas to crawl and shorter slides,” Fairburn added. “Because over 40 percent of injuries that occur on playgrounds are related to climbing equipment, the National Safety Council recommends that children under age 4 should not climb. Older children ages 6 to 12 years have more strength and are able to manipulate horizontal bars, seesaws and taller slides.”
Fairburn says that well maintained and safe playgrounds are a wonderful place for children to explore and learn.
“Playgrounds can aid in positive emotional development when used appropriately,” said Fairburn. “Children learn how to interact socially with other children and it helps them develop creativity and problem-solving techniques.”
To ensure those discoveries are made in the safest of environments, the Think First team encourages schools and parents to observe the following playground guidelines:
- Always provide playground supervision.
- Make sure children do not wear clothing with loose strings.
- Inspect the playground area for sticks, glass and other potential hazards.
- Allow children to play only on age-appropriate equipment.
- Look for exposed concrete footings or rocks that could trip children.
- Inspect surface areas to ensure adequate cushioning for falls.
- Inspect all equipment for loose screws, bolts, protruding nails or rusted surfaces and make sure all equipment is secured in the ground and sturdy.
- Make sure guardrails surround all elevated platforms and are at least 29 inches high for preschool-age children and 38 inches high for school-age children.
For more information:
Doctor: Play safety every parent's duty | The Clarion-Ledger