According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 200,000 children in the United States are treated in emergency rooms across the country every year for playground-related injuries. Boys, children in the five to nine age group, and children playing on equipment that has not been inspected or maintained suffer injuries more frequently than any other group.
The types of injuries suffered by children vary widely, both in playgrounds as well as in and around school premises. When sending your kids off to school this year, it pays to know more about the most common types of injuries you need to look out for.
Auto and Pedestrian Accidents
More children out on the road headed to or from school or darting to and from playgrounds means more traffic congestion around these areas. This, in turn, means a higher frequency of pedestrian accidents around schools and playgrounds. When it comes to crosswalk safety, drivers must be extra vigilant when driving to, from, or near playgrounds and school zones.
Bus Stop Accidents
Although school buses are the most heavily regulated vehicle type on the road, many accidents occur when children enter or exit their school bus. Children should never approach a bus until it comes to a complete stop, and they should also wait for the driver to signal them to board the bus before doing so. Drivers behind the bus as well as those in oncoming traffic should stop when the bus driver extends the bus’s retractable “Stop” sign.
As noted above, hundreds of thousands of serious playground-related accidents occur in the United States every year. Death from suffocation and high-impact falls have also been recorded. However, the majority of accidents that occur on playgrounds involve bone fractures, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and concussions resulting from falls from monkey bars, ladders, and swings.
Parents and teachers must be vigilant when it comes to children playing on playground equipment. Clothing items that can result in strangulation, such as drawstrings on hoodies, should be removed. Equipment should only be used and played on by children of the right age. Children aged five and below should use playgrounds that are specifically designed for use by children who are preschool age. Also, playgrounds should have appropriate surfaces; grass and dirt are inappropriate playground surfaces, while wood chips and soft, synthetic rubber or plastic tiles are safe floor options in playgrounds.
Sports Injuries, Fights, and Bullying
Physical sports always expose its participants to injury. Lower the risk of injury by wearing clothing and protection appropriate for the sport in question, and always have an adult on hand for supervision during physical sports, especially contact sports.
Unfortunately, fights are common occurrences on school playgrounds, as is bullying in school hallways and classrooms. Children of all ages and all backgrounds have reported suffering various physical, psychological, and emotional injuries inflicted on them by bullies at school or on the playground. Teach your children how to report these cases and what to do when faced with a dangerous situation. Parents, teachers, and caregivers can also benefit from knowing how to help reduce the incidence of fights and bullying and what to do if a child reports an issue to them.
Additional Safety Steps to Take
Playground safety works best when parents, teachers, and children are all involved in keeping playgrounds and the children who use them safely. Doing this requires multiple things: ensuring that playgrounds themselves are safe, removing hazards as and when they come about (for example, sharp protrusions in playground flooring), regularly checking equipment for cracks or deterioration, and teaching children the basics of safe gameplay and being wary of playground risks.
With respect to the last point above on teaching children the basics of being safe and wary of risks, here are a few ways playground injuries and their consequences can be avoided or mitigated.
Learn to Identify Injuries
Injuries such as concussions can vary in degree from mild to serious. If a child is hit on the head, the signs and symptoms of a concussion include feeling sleepy, confusion, poor balance, or slurred speech in case of a more serious concussion. Teaching children how to identify such injuries can go a long way toward expediting the injured child’s receipt of the medical attention they need.
Sharing the Road
The best way to avoid pedestrian and bus-related accidents are to share the road. When a bus’s red overhead lights are flashing, traffic from both directions must come to a stop at least 20 feet away from the bus, and traffic must remain at a halt until the bus driver turns the flashing lights off and continues along the road. Sharing the road at crosswalks, being wary of school zones, and teaching children when and when not to cross the road is just as important as driver education in these areas.
Teach your children the importance of not talking or texting and driving. Texting while walking or playing is also dangerous; distracted walking by children can do more to cause an accident on the road or a fall from playground equipment than a driver who is unaware that he or she is driving in a school or playground zone or a child who intentionally hurts another while playing. Children should not walk on the road with headphones on, only cross streets at marked crosswalks, obey all traffic signs, never run into or across the street, always walk in front of the bus when getting off or on the bus, look both ways before crossing the road, and pay as much attention to their surroundings in the playground as they do to their surroundings on the road.
Accidents are bound to happen, but together, we can reduce their frequency, as well as their severity. Teaching children the basics of school, road, and playground safety as outlined above is an important first step in reducing the likelihood that a serious accident occurs. Furthermore, educating parents, teachers, drivers, and children about the importance of safety – and the dangers inherent in going to school and using playground equipment – will go along way towards reducing the number of serious accidents that occur every year in those settings.