Playground Realities: The Risk of Concussions

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We hear a lot about brain injuries these days, especially when it comes to sports. From child athletes to NFL stars, the focus has been on keeping our players safe while they are on the field. But what about every day occurrences? Parents wouldn’t let their children play football or ride their bikes without a helmet, but what happens when kids are on the playground?

According to a recent study that was conducted by the CDC, more and more children are being treated for traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), including concussions, as a result of playground-related accidents. Each year between 2001 and 2013, approximately 215,000 children ages 14 and younger were treated in the emergency room with non-fatal playground injuries. Of these, around 21,000 had TBIs each year. Essentially, this means that out of all children who are hurt while on playground equipment each year, nearly 10% of them suffer from a concussion or other brain injury.

This study was also able to determine which playground equipment tends to be high on the danger list when it comes to the possibility of concussions. It was revealed that the monkey bars and swings carried the greatest risk for injury.

Children have been running and jumping around playgrounds for years, so why the cause for alarm all of a sudden? Researchers cited several reasons for the increase in the number of children ending up in emergency rooms across the country.

1. Increased awareness about head injuries.

Even if you are not an avid sports fan, you have likely heard the stories coming out over the last few years about athletes (particularly football players) suffering from severe brain injuries as a result of the hits taken on the field. These impairments are scary, and no parent wants to put their child in a situation where this could occur. While the playground may not be quite as dangerous as the football field, parents know that the danger still exists. When kids take a big fall or have a massive hit to their head while on the playground, many parents would rather play it safe than be sorry.

2. More children are using playground equipment.

Playground equipment can be found at schools, churches, parks and homes throughout the United States. Children have easy access to swings, monkey bars and other playground activities. With kids spending more time on this equipment, then it only makes sense that the injury rate would increase as well.

While you cannot protect your children from all accidents, parents can do their part to keep children safe while they are playing outside. Supervision is so important. While you want to allow your children to play freely, certain boundaries must be set. If the monkey bars are packed, encourage your children to go play in another area until some space frees up. You should also ensure that your children are playing on age-appropriate equipment. Does your 5-year-old really need to be right in the middle of all of the big kids? Should your teenager be on the slide that is meant for the little children?

The possibility of accidents happening will never fully go away, but understanding the risk of concussions can help you make better decisions for your child.

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