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Most of 200,000 playground injuries to children are preventable, report says


April 25, 2000
Web posted at: 12:45 p.m. EDT (1645 GMT)

ATLANTA (CNN) -- More than 200,000 children will be injured this year on playgrounds at childcare centers, schools and parks in the United States, and most of the injuries are preventable, a two-year study has determined.

Researchers assessed 3,052 playgrounds in all 50 states, rating them for equipment maintenance, adult supervision and other safety factors. The average grade among the states was "C" -- showing significant deficiencies. Arizona's playgrounds ranked highest with a "B+."

"We are disappointed with the study results," said Dr. Donna Thompson, founder of the National Program for Playground Safety. "The children of America deserve an 'A' playground; most of the factors that are preventing them from having the playground they deserve can be easily remedied."

TEST Find out the playground score for your state

Thompson's organization, which conducted the survey, reported that hard surfacing like asphalt, concrete, packed dirt or rock is the leading cause of children's injuries on public and private playgrounds.

"Acceptable alternatives include hardwood fiber/mulch, pea gravel and sand. Other options include rubber tiles, mats or poured surfaces," according to a report from the organization, which was established in 1995 with a grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Falls onto playground surfaces were a contributing factor in 70 percent of injuries requiring hospital visits, researchers found. Climbing equipment, slides and swings were involved in most public playground injuries.

The study concluded that more adult supervision is needed at America's playgrounds. Also, placement of signs designating appropriate age groups for individual playground equipment would guide parents, the researchers said.

The National Program for Playground Safety, based at the University of Northern Iowa, released the study results to coincide with National Playground Safety Week, April 24-28.

For parents, school administrators and other public officials, the program provides information on how to improve playground safety. Included for distribution are blank report cards, the same check-off forms used in the national study to score playgrounds.

To receive the safety and evaluation information, call 1-800-554-PLAY or write The National Program for Playground Safety, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614. Or fax a request to 319-273-7308, or send email to

CNN Correspondent Pat Etheridge contributed to this report.

A parent's quick checklist for playgrounds

  • Make sure supervision is present, but strings and rope aren't. Adult presence is needed to watch for potential hazards, observe, intercede and facilitate play when necessary. Strings on clothing or ropes used for play can cause accidental strangulation if caught on equipment.

  • Make sure all children play on age-appropriate equipment. Preschoolers, ages 2-5, and children, ages 5-12, are developmentally different and need different equipment located in separate areas to keep the playground safe and fun for all.

  • Make sure falls to surface are cushioned. Nearly 70 percent of all playground injuries are related to falls to the surface. Acceptable surfaces include hardwood fiber/mulch, pea gravel, sand, and synthetic materials such as poured-in-place, rubber mats, or tiles. Playground surfaces should not be concrete, asphalt, grass, blacktop, packed dirt, or rocks.

  • Make sure equipment is safe. Check to ensure the equipment is anchored safely in the ground, all equipment pieces are in good working order, S-hooks are entirely closed, bolts are not protruding, there are no exposed footings, etc.

  • Source: National Program for Playground Safety, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614-0618, 800-554-PLAY

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    National Program for Playground Safety
    National Center for Injury Prevention and Control: Playground injuries

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