Brain Injuries from Playground Use Growing in US
Despite the effort made to improve playground equipment, concussions and other head injuries from their use is on the rise in the US. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention researched data on playground injuries from 2001-2003 on children under 14. They found 215,000 children received emergency room treatment during that time, while 10 percent (or 21,000 per year) suffered from a traumatic brain injury.
The data was then contrasted to more modern data, which found a sharp rise in traumatic brain injuries. In 2005, 23 out of 100,000 children suffered brain injuries, a number which more than doubled in 2013. However, only a small percentage were hospitalized (about 3 percent), and 95 percent were sent home after treatment in the ER.
The majority of the children with the brain injuries were boys, accounting for 6 out of 10 ER visits. And, accounting for better weather, most of the injuries occur in April, May and September. The data shows that the number of children in the ER for playground related injuries began to rise sharply in 2009.
The most common places where children injured themselves were on the monkey bars, swings and playground gyms, which cited the most incidents. Two-thirds of these brain injuries occurred in school playgrounds and recreational facilities. Researchers cited that the monkey bars were the most dangerous, as when kids hang upside-down and slip, they often fall on their heads. This contributes to brain injuries and researchers have stated that parents should advise their kids to avoid monkey bars, or at least play safely on them.
Dr. Jeneita Bell, a researcher on the project, says of concussions amongst the children, “It’s not just sports. This study highlights the importance of other causes of traumatic brain injuries and concussion among children.”
Although playground safety has improved in the last few years, researchers on the project agree that the uptick of children treated is likely the awareness of trauma and the danger of head injuries that has led to more parents seeking treatment in the ER. Signs of trauma include dizziness, headaches, nausea, confusion and vomiting. Parents should be aware of what signs to look out for if their children have hit their heads on playground equipment.
Anna Scanlon is an author of YA and historical fiction and a PhD student at the University of Leicester where she is finishing her degree in modern history.