By Caleb Nunley, MD
We are fortunate in the Tulsa area to have The Gathering Place and multiple other fun parks. Unfortunately, though, in orthopedics, we see multiple playground injuries. I thought it might be helpful to share some tips on playground safety in hopes of avoiding and preventing some of the most common injuries.
Below are some tips and general guidelines:
1) The child should always wear shoes to avoid splinters and cuts.
2) Sunscreen and plenty of water are important on hot summer days.
3) Make sure the playground has a soft surface underneath the equipment. This needs to extend several feet away from the equipment. This could be rubber, mulch, sand or other materials. The most common emergency room visit from a playground injury is from a fall. Also, check to ensure that the playground is well maintained. Equipment that is poorly maintained may have sharp edges, be unstable or rusty. If the playground equipment is wet, it increases the risk of slipping and falling, and if the equipment is hot, it is a risk for burns.
4) Make sure that the child is playing on developmentally appropriate equipment and utilizes the equipment appropriately.
- Monkey Bars: the child should be using for climbing and not acrobatic stunts.
- Swings: should not be used for jumping off of. Also, make sure children are aware when walking in front of swings.
- Slides: the child should never climb up the front of the slide. (As a parent of a two year old myself, I know this one is especially tough). The child should sit down on their bottom facing forward as they go down and should move away from the bottom of the slide as soon as they reach the ground. An important note is that toddlers should not go down the slide on a parent’s lap. This has been shown repeatedly to be a risk for leg fractures. Fractures/breaks can happen in multiple ways, including when the toddler’s leg is caught underneath the parent, when the child’s leg is caught on the side of the slide, and when the force of the parent accompanying them down breaks the leg.
5) Supervision is likely the most important factor in preventing injuries. This includes providing children guidance on the proper use of equipment, as well as monitoring and adhering to playground safety rules.
We hope you don’t need us, but if there is an orthopedic injury, please give us a call at 918-392-1400! Most importantly, have fun! Stay safe and happy playing!