Playground Injury Data & Statistics

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Playgrounds are safe, aren't they?

Whether a parent, grandparent, other relative, guardian or caregiver of a child, we all would like to believe that playgrounds are safe places for children, free of potential dangers such as infection, serious, major or even fatal injuries. Sadly, for too many playgrounds in North America, this is not true.

Hey, we survived!

A a lot of people might say, “Hey, when we were kids, we played on dirt, grass, concrete or asphalt, and we survived!” While this may be true, the facts don’t lie. Since the creation in 1988 of Safe Kids as a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing accidental childhood injuries, their efforts have helped reduce fatal accidents by 45% in the U.S. alone. However, also states, “the public playground injury rate among children ages 5 and under doubled from 1980 to 2000.”


You don't know what you don't know until you know it

This is a pretty good analogy, for pretty much anything. After all, there is a plethora of misinformation circulating around us at any given time. Much of it is based on perception or conjecture, and a lot of it is not very factual. Getting potentially biased information from only one source can not only be incorrect, in the area of playground safety it can actually be dangerous, as statistics prove.

Our news article, “Are Our Playgrounds (and Industry-Related Fall Safety Standards) Really Safe?,” looks into this, and discusses what we know now indicates the current playground fall safety standards are far from safe. In fact, we've known for over 14 years that the current 1000 HIC (Head Injury Criterion) and 200 G-max. actually result in fatalities. Furthermore, this data is from the same agency whose crash test data was utilized to establish those old thresholds at which it was defined as LIKELY that Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or death would occur. Since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report from March of 2000 came out, the analysis proved a number of things, including the fact that 150 G-max. was actually more equivalent to the 1000 HIC interpolation calculation, and either would likely result in fatality. Furthermore, the new thresholds where permanent injury or death would be likely to occur are actually: 390 HIC for toddlers age 1-3; 570 HIC for preschoolers age 4 & 5; and 700 HIC for ages 6 through adult. Allowable G-max. thresholds would also need to be lowered correspondingly.

If we've known this since early 2000, why are the current playground fall safety standards still at 1000 HIC and 200 G-max.? Could it be because the playground industry is governed primarily by playground equipment manufacturers, like the proverbial “fox watching the hen house?”

BACK TO TOP safety reports

The 2007 Safe Kids Research Report shared that there was an increase of 21% in fall-related deaths for children in the U.S. from 2000-2004. One recommendation made was: “Increase the number of trained and certified playground inspectors who can educate the public about the need for safe surfacing, age-appropriate equipment and continuous maintenance.”

This type of recommendation, along with supporting industry data, was instrumental in the creation of revised safety standards and playground safety publications. Many states have enacted laws, with more intending to, requiring public playgrounds to have a certified playground inspector approve playground equipment and safety surfaces for any new playgrounds, or those existing playgrounds with material changes to overall design, layout and equipment.


Some playground injury statistics:

  • From 1990 to 2000, at least 147 children died from playground equipment-related injuries
  • From 2001 to 2008 the Consumer Product Safety Commission documented an additional 40 fatalities
     (nearly 70 percent of these deaths occurred on home playgrounds)
  • About 45% of playground-related injuries are severe-fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations and amputations
  • In 2008, 206,599 children ages 14 and under were treated in hospital emergency rooms for playground equipment-related injuries  (children ages 5 to 14 accounted for 71% of these injuries)
  • About 75% of non-fatal injuries occur on public playgrounds. Most occur at schools and daycare centers
  • The majority of playground injuries to children younger than 5 involves the face or head,
    for the ages of 5 thru 9 there are more arm and leg injuries
  • In 2008, an estimated 10,372 children under the age of 2 years were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with playground equipment  (93 percent of the injured were between 1 and 2 years old)

Above is just a tiny sample of the plethora of data available regarding playground injury statistics. Please refer to the original resources which are available via links contained on our Resources page.


What does this say about playground safety?

Experts agree that severe head injuries are the most frequently implicated cause of death in playground equipment-related falls. There are about 600 childhood injuries every day on playgrounds across the U.S. that end up in the emergency room, with a vast majority of them (79%) fall-related, and many might be preventable by utilizing more age-appropriate equipment, better supervision, and suitable playground safety surfacing to match the playground needs.

Given this information, it is a very good idea to better understand playground safety and testing, which is covered on the Specifications page. Our Resources page is really the bibliography of this website, with tremendous resources available online at your fingertips, just a click away!



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