Traumatic brain injuries including concussions have significantly increased from 2001 to 2013.
The playground is meant to be a place where children can run, jump, play and enjoy themselves, but for many children playgrounds are not that much fun. New research has reported a significant increase in chronic brain injuries taking place on playgrounds and the numbers are going up despite safety improvements in playground equipment.
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Thousands of children every year are taken to the hospital as a result of playground injuries. Those injuries range from mild bruises to broken bones, concussions and even traumatic brain injuries that can potentially alter the function of the brain. Most of the time monkey bars, playground gyms and swings are involved in the injuries.
Researchers from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention examined the national data on playground injuries among children aged 14 and under who needed medical treatment from 2001 to 2013. On average, 215,000 children were treated yearly and about 21,000 of them were those who suffered traumatic brain injuries including concussions. A real rise in the trend was noticed when researchers looked at the brain injuries occurring each year.
In 2003, 23 out of 100,000 kids suffered traumatic brain injuries, but the rate skyrocketed to 48 out of 100,000 in 2013. A total of 30,000 kids were treated for brain injuries by 2013. Though, most of the injuries were relatively mild in nature. 95% of kids were sent home after ER treatment while only 3% had to hospitalized and received additional treatment. Half of those children were boys aged from five to nine years.
“This study highlights the importance of other causes of traumatic brain injuries and concussion among children.” Dr. Jeneita Bell, researcher from CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control said in a statement.
To avoid potential brain injuries, researchers suggest that adult supervision is crucial. Before using slides and swings, it is necessary to check that the playground equipment is in good condition and safe for kids. Playground surfaces should be made of soft materials including wood, chips or sand instead of concrete. Moreover, all the swings should be spaced properly to avoid collisions.
“I would advise them to stay away from the monkey bars,” said Dr. Barbara Pena from Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami. “If that’s not possible, parents and teachers should warn children that hanging upside down from monkey bars is dangerous, because they’ll likely land on their head if they fall.”
Dr. Jeneita Bell says. “Check the surfacing to make sure there is soft surfacing in place. Be sure your child is playing on equipment appropriate for his or her age.”