BITCO Insurance Companies

Traumatic Brain Injuries at Playgrounds on the Rise

Release Date: May 12, 2016

The number of children treated in emergency rooms for traumatic brain injuries (TBI) sustained at a playground increased significantly between 2005 and 2013, according to a new study to be published in the June 2016 issue of Pediatrics. On average, more than 21,100 children age 14 and younger were treated for traumatic brain injuries annually over a 12-year period, according to the report, “Nonfatal Playground-Related Traumatic Brain Injuries Among Children, 2001-2013.”

The report found that about two-thirds of the injuries occurred at schools and recreational sports facilities. The majority of those injured were treated and released. Males accounted for 58 percent of the hospital visits and more than half of the children treated were between ages 5 and 9, according to the study. The research documented a total annual average of 214,883 playground injuries over the same period, despite industry standard improvements, such as playground surfacing that reduces the risk of injury and deaths from falls.

The report estimates that from 2001 to 2009, the rate of all sports and recreation-related TBI emergency department visits increased 57% and that playground activities accounted for the highest estimated number of emergency department visits among the activities examined. The authors indicate that several factors might account for the rise in emergency department visits for playground-related TBI among persons under age 14 years. They indicate that public awareness of TBI and concussions may be prompting parents to seek medical care for their children in the event of a head injury, when previously they would not have done so.

Most injuries occurred on weekdays in April, May, and September. Monkey bars, playground gyms, and swings were the most frequently reported equipment associated with a TBI. The study mentions the value of caregiver supervision though cautions that not all risks can be addressed by this strategy for injury prevention. The authors indicate that the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard ASTM F1292 Impact Attenuation of Surfacing Materials within the Use Zone of Playground Equipment appears to be effective, as few deaths from head and neck injuries have occurred in recent years. The study also suggests that standards for playground construction and surfacing need to be continually evaluated to reduce the risk of all TBIs and not just severe head injury and death.

The study recommends that strategies be developed to strengthen adult supervision, reduce child risk behavior, maintain equipment, and improve playground surfaces and environments. The authors state that improvements in playground environmental safety which also address design, surfacing, and maintenance can help reduce the incidence and severity of TBIs sustained in playgrounds. They identify that these measures are important, particularly for children ages 5 to 9, the group most impacted by playground-related TBI.

The complete study is available for a fee at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/04/28/peds.2015-2721.

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The information contained in this publication was obtained from sources believed to be reliable. ISO Services, Inc., its companies and employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with either the information herein contained or the safety suggestions herein made. Moreover, it cannot be assumed that every acceptable safety procedure is contained herein or that abnormal or unusual circumstances may not warrant or require further or additional procedure.


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