Playing it safe on the playground


Warmer temps are here, school is almost out and children are ready for summer fun. Playground time is a great way for children to get fresh air and exercise; but before kids start monkeying around, parents should equip themselves and their children with safety tips to help prevent falls and injuries.

Every year, more than 200,000 children are treated in the emergency department for playground-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The most common injuries we see from playground accidents include scratches, cuts, bruises and broken bones,” said Sujit Iyer, MD, assistant medical director of emergency at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas. Dell Children’s is part of Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system.

Heads up for head injury

Playground injuries can vary in severity and when an accident involves your child’s head, it’s important to be on alert.

When your little one hasn’t mastered the monkey bars, or swings too high, more serious injuries can include traumatic brain injury (TBI) such as concussion.

Statistics from the CDC  show that from 2005-2013, playground related head TBI have gone up a lot. Emergency room doctors are seeing over 20,000 playground-related TBI cases each year. That’s 10 percent of all playground-related injuries.

“Head injuries and concussions are very common injuries on the playground,” Iyer said. “Thankfully parents and teachers are becoming more familiar with what a concussion is, and can better recognize the symptoms.”

Age matters

Many playscapes are designed for a specific age range, catering to the distinct abilities within that range. Playing on age appropriate equipment will help keep your child and his playmates safe.

“If your child is too young for a piece of equipment, they are at risk for falls, injuries or even being injured by older children,” Iyer said.

And that scenario goes both ways.

“If your child is too old for a piece of equipment, they can also hurt themselves by attempting activities that are built for children of smaller size and weight,” Iyer said.

Be aware of the equipment’s age, too. Old equipment such as extra tall slides with no side rails, rickety seesaws or old-timey merry-go-rounds can be a safety risk.

If you come across a playground with broken or unsafe equipment, Iyer says to report concerns so that issues can be addressed and keep the area safe.  Appropriate authorities may include the city, parks and recreation department, school, daycare or church.

Also, don’t forget to report broken glass and excess debris such as trash or tree limbs.

Injuries can be prevented

Proper education, supervision and a bit of caution can help prevent playground accidents.

Iyer urges parents and all care providers to follow these American College of Emergency Physicians playground safety recommendations:

  • Closely supervise any young child on a playground. Older children also need adult supervision.
  • Make sure the playground facility is properly maintained. Look for enough cushioning to prevent injury as well as broken pieces of equipment, trash or broken bottles.
  • Children should never crowd the playground.  If you cannot safely monitor a child because too many children are using the equipment, go somewhere else or choose another time to play.
  • Make sure the playground equipment is age appropriate. Younger children get injured playing on equipment that is meant for older children, and vice versa.

Even with the most thorough preventive measures, accidents can happen.  Keep a cell phone on hand and know when and how to call 911 for help.

Learn more about emergency care at Dell Children’s. For non-life-threatening emergencies, book an online appointment for your child at a Dell Children’s ER location near you. Visit