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Playground Injuries: Fact Sheet

Overview

Each year in the United States, emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries (Tinsworth 2001).

Occurrence and Consequences

  • About 45% of playground-related injuries are severe–fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations, and amputations (Tinsworth 2001).
  • About 75% of nonfatal injuries related to playground equipment occur on public playgrounds (Tinsworth 2001). Most occur at schools and daycare centers (Phelan 2001).
  • Between 1990 and 2000, 147 children ages 14 and younger died from playground-related injuries. Of them, 82 (56%) died from strangulation and 31 (20%) died from falls to the playground surface. Most of these deaths (70%) occurred on home playgrounds (Tinsworth 2001). 

Cost

In 1995, playground-related injuries among children ages 14 and younger cost an estimated $1.2 billion (Office of Technology Assessment 1995).

Groups at Risk

  • While all children who use playgrounds are at risk for injury, girls sustain injuries (55%) slightly more often than boys (45%) (Tinsworth 2001).  
  • Children ages 5 to 9 have higher rates of emergency department visits for playground injuries than any other age group. Most of these injuries occur at school (Phelan 2001).

Risk Factors

  • On public playgrounds, more injuries occur on climbers than on any other equipment (Tinsworth 2001).
  • On home playgrounds, swings are responsible for most injuries (Tinsworth 2001).
  • A study in New York City found that playgrounds in low-income areas had more maintenance-related hazards than playgrounds in high-income areas. For example, playgrounds in low-income areas had significantly more trash, rusty play equipment, and damaged fall surfaces (Suecoff 1999).

Additional Resource

Protect the Ones You Love: Falls

References

Mack MG, Sacks JJ, Thompson D. Testing the impact attenuation of loose fill playground surfaces. Injury Prevention 2000;6:141-4.

Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Congress. Risks to Students in School. Washington (DC): U.S. Government Printing Office; 1995.

Phelan KJ, Khoury J, Kalkwarf HJ, Lanphear BP. Trends and patterns of playground injuries in United States children and adolescents. Ambulatory Pediatrics 2001;1(4):227-33.

Suecoff SA, Avner JR, Chou KJ, Crain EF. A Comparison of New York City Playground Hazards in High- and Low–Income Areas. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 1999;153:363-6.

Tinsworth D, McDonald J. Special Study: Injuries and Deaths Associated with Children’s Playground Equipment. Washington (DC): U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission; 2001.

 
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