Each year, almost a quarter of a million American children receive treatment in ERs for injuries sustained on public playgrounds, according to the CDC. Roughly 45% of those are severe, and include injuries such as:
- Bone fractures
- Internal injuries
- Dislocated joints
More than half of these are caused by falling or by the failure of playground equipment. Over 9 years playground injuries caused the death of 40 children.
Some injuries are more common than others. Here are the top 3 to watch out for:
This is the type of playground injury seen most often by emergency room doctors, and constitutes up to 36% of cases. These occur mostly when children fall from equipment such as climbers, swings and slides. The injuries typically involve the arms and wrists because children follow their natural instinct to throw out their arms to break a fall, and even the impact from dropping a short distance can cause fractures in tiny limbs. It’s also possible to fracture a leg or ankle if the child falls or jumps and lands awkwardly on the ground.
Signs that your child could have sustained a fracture include:
- Hearing a snapping or grinding sound during the fall
- Swelling, bruising and tenderness around a section of the limb
- Pain when your child tries to move, touch or press on the site, or put weight on the limb
- The limb seems twisted or deformed, or the broken bone is protruding through the skin
A fracture can potentially be serious, so get medical treatment as soon as possible. Don’t let the child eat anything, in case the ER recommends immediate surgery.
Abrasions and Contusions
Contusions and abrasions make up 20% of all playground injuries, and come in varying stages of severity. These are typically superficial injuries to the skin, such as cuts, bruises, grazes and bumps, and thin-skinned areas such as knees and elbows are more likely to result in actual skin damage than more padded parts of the body. If a wound is bleeding heavily, apply pressure to the area and get your child to the ER as quickly as possible.
If not, you can follow these steps for basic first aid:
- Clean the wound gently and flush it with saline solution or warm water and sterile gauze to remove embedded dirt
- Apply a small quantity of antiseptic such as Betadine or Polysporin and cover it with a sterile, non-stick dressing for protection
- Check after 24 hours for signs of inflammation or infection, which might require medical attention
- If the wound has begun healing, clean it again with saline and leave it open to dry, or cover with a clean, dry dressing for an extra 24-hour period
It’s important to know whether your child’s most recent tetanus shot occurred within the past five years. If not, or if the damage was caused by a rusted metal object or an excessive amount of dirt was present, it’s best to get the injury evaluated by a medical professional.
Cuts account for up to 17% of playground injuries, and it’s essential to determine whether stitches are needed as soon as possible. If so, get the child to your nearest freestanding ER urgently. The laceration needs medical treatment if:
- It’s more than a quarter inch deep, has jagged edges or gapes open, particularly if it’s on the hands or fingers
- You can see down to the fat, muscle or bone
- The cut occurs directly over a joint and pulls apart when the child moves the joint
- The laceration happens anywhere on the face, particularly the lips or eyes/eyelids
- The injury continues to bleed after 15 minutes has passed
Check to see how severe the laceration looks. Rinse and flush it with warm tap water or saline solution to determine the depth and damage. Apply pressure if bleeding is excessive. Press the edges together to see if they stay that way or gape open again. If so, bring your child to the emergency room for a full evaluation.
Statistics show that girls between the ages of 5 and 9 have the highest risk of playground injuries in public parks. If your child sustains an injury at any of these local parks, bring her to our 24-hour emergency room on Highway 6 for immediate attention:
Mission West Park – 7536 C 1/3 Tetela Houston, TX 77083
Hackberry Park – 7777 S. Dairy Ashford Houston, TX 77072
Eldridge Park – 2511 Eldridge Road Sugar Land, TX 77478
Four Corners Community Center – 15700 Old Richmond Road Sugar Land, TX 77478
Ron Slockett Park – 12821 Nantucket Drive Sugar Land, TX 77478
A study in New York City found that a primary factor in park safety was the amount of trash, the condition of the equipment and the fall surfaces. Visit the links above to read user reviews of the condition of parks and equipment to get an idea of the hazards to keep your children safe at the playground.