Playground safety: tips for parents and caregivers

By Joseph Scordino | Jul 17, 2014

Children have a lot of energy. And playgrounds, especially those designed specifically for young children, are often the best place for them to climb, swing and slide. Playground injuries, however, remain a common occurrence.

Consider this: according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 600,000 people were injured at playgrounds in 2012, including:

· Approximately 210,000 who were injured on monkey bars and other climbing apparatuses;

· 151,279 on swing sets

· 125,750 on slides

· 56,000 on other playground equipment

· 10,575 on seesaws or teeterboards

"With summer in Maine finally here, I have seen a significant increase in pediatric upper extremity fractures. As a parent of three children under five years of age, I struggle with the constant internal battle of giving my children space while still looking out for them. Here are some tips to hopefully prevent some fractures here in the Midcoast area,” says Joseph F. Scordino, MD, orthopaedic surgeon at Pen Bay Orthopaedics. “Maintaining a significant amount of fill under the playground equipment, especially below the monkey bars or underneath swings is very helpful, so that if a child falls there is adequate cushion to absorb some of the force of the fall. Be aware of anywhere in the common areas where the fill seems to be brushed away from the underlying hard surface. As an orthopaedic surgeon, I would rather prevent a fracture then treat it.” Here are some other tips that may help.

For parents and caregivers:

· Steer children to age-appropriate playground equipment.

· Check to see that there is enough space for kids to easily get off and away from slides, carousels or other equipment where others may be following. Don’t let children crowd exit areas.

· Check the handgrips on monkey bars and other climbing devices to verify they are secure, and also shaped and sized for a child’s grasp.

· Swing seats should be made of plastic or rubber. Avoid metal or wood. Also avoid any equipment that has openings that could entrap a child’s head.

· Be sure you can always clearly see your children on the playground.

· Never go down a slide with a baby or toddler in your lap.

· Avoid playgrounds that have concrete, asphalt, hard-packed dirt or grass. Recommended surfaces include shock-absorbing materials like rubber mats or loose fill such as double-shredded bark mulch, engineered wood fibers, sand and fine or medium gravel of suitable depth. Try to maintain the depth of this fill at 6 inches to provide some cushion for a fall.

· Use care and caution in the sun. In hot weather, equipment exposed to direct sunlight can burn skin.

· Remove any necklaces and jewelry on children that may catch on playground equipment and cause injury.

For children:

· Play on dry equipment.

· Hold onto handrails and climb all stairs or steps slowly.

· Slide one person at a time, sitting down and facing forward, and move away from the slide as soon as you reach the ground.

· Be careful of crossing in front of moving swings or teeter-totters.

· Remove drawstrings and hoods from clothing that could catch on equipment.

· Wear proper footwear — no bare feet.

If you are seeking additional information as we enter into the full swing of summer, please call Pen Bay Orthopaedics at 593-5454. We’re glad to assist you.

 

Joseph F. Scordino, MD, is an orthopaedic surgeon at Pen Bay Orthopaedics and member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

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