Everyone knows football fields and war zones are high-risk areas for brain injuries, but new statistics compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that we should be concerned about another dangerous location – the playground.
Despite safety and design improvements to playgrounds, health officials say every year from 2001 to 2013, an average of 21,000 playground-related brain injuries among kids 14 or younger are treated in emergency rooms.
At the onset of the study, an average of 18,000 playground-related brain injuries were treated over the course of the year. By 2013, the number had risen significantly to an average of 29,000 children with brain injuries. The study authors say the upswing became particularly notable starting in 2009.
“It’s not just sports. This study highlights the importance of other causes of traumatic brain injuries and concussion among children,” said study researcher Dr. Jeneita Bell, medical officer at the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
While the findings published in the journal Pediatrics could not pinpoint the exact reason more brain injuries seem to be happening on the playground, the researchers did offer some ideas.
“We can only make assumptions,” Bell said. “It may be that there is increased awareness about concussions as a whole.” The team believes the increased attention paid to concussions are causing more incidents to be taken seriously and evaluated by medical professionals than in the past.
In particular, children were most often injured when playing on monkey bars, playground gyms, and swings, with almost two-thirds of injuries occurring at schools or recreational sports facilities.
The data, collected by looking at national injury-surveillance data, showed that boys were slightly more likely to experience a playground-related brain injury, with girls only accounting for 40% of incidents. Injuries were also most common in April, May, and September.
It may be possible the increase in injuries is reflective of increased awareness and monitoring for concussions. Still, the authors suggest a few tips for keeping your child safe while using public play facilities.
They suggest that parents inspect playgrounds, making sure to check the surfacing and making sure it is soft enough. Also, watch to see that your children are using equipment appropriate for their age and that all equipment is well-maintained.