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Back to School Warning: The Five Biggest Playground Dangers

Playground Injuries

Gruesome Playground Injuries 

In 2011, playwright Rajiv Joseph debuted his play Gruesome Playground Injuries at the Second State Theatre in New York City. The play really has little to do with playgrounds as it traces the lifelong relationship of a couple who cannot seem to make things between them work. But the overarching theme is that often, our most gruesome injuries are the ones inflicted by those who mean the most to us. 

And in that context, the title of the play points to an important fact for parents and those who care for children – playgrounds can pose significant dangers for kids. 

According to the Center for Disease Control, 200,000 children age 14 and younger visit the emergency room each year for playground injuries. Over a third of these injuries are quite severe, including fractures, concussions, dislocations, internal injuries, and amputations. On average, 15 children die each year from injuries sustained on the playground. Children in low-income areas are at more risk for maintenance-related injuries than children in more well-to-do neighborhoods. These statistics are of particular concern to parents as their children head back to school; while many of the fatal injuries occur at home, most of the serious injuries that befall kids occur on playgrounds at schools and daycare centers.

Slip and Slide – The Five Biggest Dangers 

Slip and Slide

With their still developing special perception, coordination, and balance, children are already at increased risk of having an accident. However, certain factors can contribute to a higher risk of injury on the playground. According to ABC News, these five characteristics of playground equipment can pose a serious hazard to your child. 

1. Lack of maintenance – Rusted pieces, worn ropes, and cracked support posts are just a few of the dangers that could be lurking in an improperly maintained playground. Schools and communities should be hyper-vigilant in carrying out inspections of their playground equipment and fixing any potential hazards. As already stated, this is more likely to be a problem in poor, low-income areas. 

2. Openings in playground equipment – If there’s an opening for the size of a child’s head, you can be sure he or she will stick their head in it. All openings must be measured to make sure a child can get his head out as easily as he can get it in.

3. Unsafe surfaces – Few things pose as great a danger to kids on the playground as an unforgiving concrete surface. Grass, blacktop, and hard dirt are also dangerous, and the National Playground Safety Institute (NPSI) recommends cushioning a playground with wood chips, sand, rubber, mats, and similar surfaces. 

4. Improper guardrails – Rails that have gaps, are too low or invite children to use them as balance beams are almost as ineffective as a complete lack of rails.

5. The wrong equipment – Certain pieces of playground equipment just pose such an inherent risk that they should not be on the playground at all. 

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission states that these pieces should simply not be present on playgrounds:

  • Swings or gliders that hold more than one rider
  • Free swinging ropes
  • Rings and trapezes
  • Heavy swings, such as animal-shaped swings 

When a child is injured in a preventable accident, though that pain is not inflicted by the parents—the ones who love them the most—parents often feel responsible when they made the decision to allow the child onto the playground in the first place. Parents should be able to trust that playgrounds that are open for play are not in ill repair or that they lack appropriate safety design. If your child has been seriously injured on a playground due to dangerous playground equipment, you may be entitled to financial compensation, especially if one of the above factors played a role in the incident. Just as important, however, is the need to draw attention to circumstances that stand to harm our children—especially when those very circumstances are the ones we presume to be the safest. 

About the Author: Lawlor Winston White & Murphy. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “SuperLawyer”—an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state—and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.”

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