Playground Safety Q&A with Dr. Imler

Boy playing on jungle gym

We’ve all heard the old adage, “work hard, play hard.” For students, this means that in between science labs and book reports, physical activity is an important part of the school day. Recess allows kids to express themselves freely in play and take a break from structured schedules.  One consideration parents can take to ensure their children’s playtime is as safe as possible is to be aware of playground injuries and safety measures.

Daniel Imler, MD,  Assistant Professor and Assistant Medical Director at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford Pediatric Emergency Room shares his insight.

Q: What are some common injuries from playground accidents?

Dr. Imler: Common injuries from playgrounds include fractures, head injuries, and lacerations. Falls are the most common accidents.

Q: How does Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford Pediatric Emergency Room treat these injuries?

Dr. Imler: Every treatment is tailored to each patient and family.  Common treatments for an arm fracture include reductions or surgery.  Our Emergency Department strives to be an Ouchless ED and pain control is of the upmost importance to us.  We use numbing cream, medicines through an IV, or even medicine sprayed into the nostrils.  We work with our orthopedic colleagues to determine the best therapy that might be needed.

Other injuries from playgrounds include traumatic brain injuries.  Many of the children coming to the ED are being considered between minor head trauma, concussion, and serious head injuries (intracranial bleeding and skull fractures). The primary way we can see if there is a severe injury is to do a CT scan. However, as CTs have associated radiation, we use the history of the fall and the current symptoms of the patient to determine whether a CT is necessary in identifying a severe head injury.

Q: On average how many injuries do you see from playgrounds?

Dr. Imler: In the summer, we see several injuries per day from playground falls. It’s one of the most common sources of trauma in the pediatric ED.

Q: What are a few safe practices that parents can follow?

Dr. Imler: As a parent or caregiver you can check the guidelines posted on the playground to ensure it is developed for your child’s age.  Another safety measure you can take is to ensure there is soft material such as rubber paving, sand, or wood shavings under the structures.  It is very important that children wear proper clothing on play structures.  Super hero capes and necklaces should be left in the car to ensure there is nothing around your child’s neck.  Children can also be reminded to walk while on the structures and not to jump off high areas.  If you would like to look at detailed guidelines for playground safety the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has advice for home and public structures.

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