Kid on a playground slide

April 30, 2024, 9:30 a.m.

Lindsay Clukies, MD

It's that time of year again: playground season. Pediatricians are huge supporters of kids going to playgrounds because it means they get to be outside, be active and use their imaginations. Playgrounds are also great resources for families because they’re free and often easily accessible.

However, every year, more than 200,000 children throughout the United States are seen and treated in the emergency department due to playground-related injuries. Falls are the most common cause of these injuries, and the majority of affected children are between the ages of 5 and 9. Playground injuries can range from minor bumps and bruises to more severe issues such as sprains, strains, cuts or lacerations, broken bones, dislocations or even head injuries. Collisions, problems with equipment and snagging clothing on sharp edges while playing can cause serious injuries. And as children start to explore their environment and test their limits, accidents are bound to happen.

Here are some safety tips to prevent playground injuries and ensure you and your child have a great time.

Tips for preventing playground injuries:

  • Close supervision by responsible adults is the most important factor in preventing injuries.
  • Inspect the playground to ensure there is no faulty equipment before allowing your child to play. Make sure the equipment is in good condition, with no broken pieces, sharp edges or objects sticking out.
  • Dress your child in proper footwear, such as sneakers, and apply sunscreen.
  • Never play on wet equipment as it can cause falls.
  • Never stand on or jump off the swings. Always be careful when walking in front of moving swings.
  • Always go down the slide one person at a time and feet first. Although it can be tempting to put your child on your lap and go down together, your child's shoe or leg can get caught in the slide and cause twisting, leading to a broken bone. Unfortunately, this is a common mechanism of injury we see in the emergency department.
  • Never climb up the slide, and always make sure the ground below is clear before going down.
  • Use the monkey bars for hanging and swinging only.
  • Always have children remove bicycle helmets before entering the playground so their heads don’t get stuck in the equipment.

In case of a medical emergency with a child, determine where the nearest accredited, Level I pediatric trauma center is located. St. Louis Children’s Hospital has six pediatric emergency department locations across the St. Louis and southern Illinois region. These include St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital at Memorial Hospital Belleville, Children’s Hospital at Memorial Hospital Shiloh, Children’s Hospital at Missouri Baptist Medical Center, Children’s Hospital at Northwest HealthCare and Children’s Hospital at Progress West Hospital.

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Lindsay Clukies, MD Lindsay Clukies, MD, is a Washington University emergency medicine physician and associate medical director for trauma services at St. Louis Children's Hospital.