Modern Playgrounds Reduce Head Injuries

February 24, 2004

According to researchers in the United Kingdom, impact-absorbing surfaces on public playgrounds can reduce the number of head injuries.

Concrete and tarmac playground surfaces were replaced with impact-absorbing bark or rubber surfaces in Cardiff, Wales, between 1994 and 1995. The playground equipment had maximum fall heights of less than 2.5 meters (8.2 feet).

During 1994 to 1998, the researchers studied 473 children younger than 14 years who were sent to the Cardiff Royal Infirmary Emergency Department because of an injury on a public playground in Cardiff. Of these 473 children, 291 were injured when they fell from equipment onto the bark or rubber playground surface.

None of the injured children suffered skull fractures and only two children had to be hospitalized overnight for observation of a head injury. Broken arms accounted for 131 of the 291 injuries caused by falls.

Head injuries on playgrounds were more common before the introduction of safety surfaces. The researchers report that "there was a sixfold greater chance of concussion and the severity of head injury was greater" before safety surfaces were used. So, the impact-absorbing surface did help protect children against head injuries. However, the safety surface did not appear to change the rate of arm fractures. It may be that the safety surface does not provide protection against arm fractures when people fall from heights or the mechanism of an arm fracture is different than that of a skull fracture.

What type of surface is used at your local playground?

References and further information:

  1. Norton, C., Rolfe, K., Morris, S., Evans, R., James, R., Jones, M.D., Cory, C., Dunstan, F. and Sibert, J.R. Head injury and limb fracture in modern playgrounds. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 89:152-153, 2004.
  2. Playground Safety - Consumer Product Safety Commission
  3. Public Playground Safety Checklist

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