Improved safety standards are needed to protect young children at playgrounds

Playgrounds provide children with social and physical benefits. However, playgrounds can put children at risk for injury, including traumatic brain injury (TBI), which can have serious long-term consequences for a child’s health and development. Nearly 30,000 children – most of whom are between the ages of five and nine years old – sustain a TBI at playgrounds in the United States every year, suggesting the need for improved safety standards to protect children from injury.

A Swedish research team noted a recent update to safety standards in the automobile industry, and they were interested to discover if playground safety standards should receive a similar reevaluation. They used a virtual model of a child’s body to test head injury mechanisms due to head-first falls from playground equipment. After analyzing the data from a number of simulated falls, the researchers found that playground equipment material that adheres to current safety standards does not adequately protect children’s brains from injury. They also determined that younger children are at significantly higher risk of skull fracture and brain injury after falling on the playground, and they suggest that safety standards should be age-dependent in order to protect very young children.

Currently, standard playground equipment does not adequately protect children from TBI. The researchers call for a systematic reevaluation of playground safety standards, and they pointed out the necessity of age-dependent standards for younger children, who are at particularly high risk for brain injury after falling on the playground. Playgrounds are important settings for children’s social and physical development, and it is imperative that their health and safety are protected as they play.

Li X & Kleiven S. Improved safety standards are needed to better protect younger children at playgrounds. Scientific Reports. (October 2018).

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