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July 12, 2013

Playground Safety: Tips for Parents and Caregivers from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Rosemont, Ill.—Children have a lot of energy, and playgrounds, especially those designed specifically for young children, often are the best place for them to climb, swing and slide. And yet playground injuries remain a common occurrence.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 600,000 people were injured at playgrounds in 2012, including:
  • Approximately 210,000 who were injured on monkey bars and other climbing apparatuses;
  • 151,279 on swing sets
  • 125,750 on slides
  • 56,000 on other playground equipment
  • 10,575 on seesaws or teeterboards
“There are many factors to consider when thinking about a child’s safety at a playground,” said orthopaedic surgeon and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) spokesperson Jennifer Weiss, MD. “Parents and caretakers should steer clear from playgrounds with asphalt or concrete surfaces, metal or wood swing sets, or any apparatus that can trap a child’s head.  Before children start to play, remind them of basic playground rules, such as one person on the slide at a time, and no running in front of moving swings and teeter-totters. Make sure that you can clearly see your child on the playground at all times.”

As orthopaedic surgeons, we would rather prevent than treat playground injuries. The  AAOS offers a full list of playground safety tips:

For parents and caregivers:
  • Steer children to age-appropriate playground equipment.
  • Check to see that there is enough space for kids to easily get off and away from slides, carousels or other equipment where others may be following. Don’t let children crowd exit areas.
  • Check the handgrips on monkey bars and other climbing devices to verify they are secure, and also shaped and sized for a child’s grasp.
  • Swing seats should be made of plastic or rubber. Avoid metal or wood.  Also avoid any equipment that has openings that could entrap a child’s head.
  • Be sure you can always clearly see your children on the playground.
  • Never go down a slide with a baby or toddler in your lap.
  • Avoid playgrounds that have concrete, asphalt, hard-packed dirt or grass. Recommended surfaces include shock-absorbing materials like rubber mats or loose fill s uch as double-shredded bark mulch, engineered wood fibers, sand, and fine or medium gravel of suitable depth.
  • Use care and caution in the sun. In hot weather, equipment exposed to direct sunlight can burn skin.
  • Remove any necklaces and jewelry on children that may catch on playground equipment and cause injury.
For children:
  • Play on dry equipment.
  • Hold on to handrails and climb all stairs or steps slowly.
  • Slide one person at a time, sitting down and facing forward, and move away from the slide as soon as you reach the ground.
  • Be careful crossing in front of moving swings or teeter-totters.
  • Remove drawstrings and hoods from clothing that could catch on equipment.
  • Wear proper footwear — no bare feet.
More tips:
Playground Safety
A Nation in Motion
More than one in four Americans have bone or joint health problems, making them the greatest cause of lost work days in the U.S. When orthopaedic surgeons restore mobility and reduce pain, they help people get back to work and to independent, productive lives. Orthopaedic surgeons provide a great value, in both human and economic terms; and access to high-quality orthopaedic care keeps this “Nation in Motion.” To learn more, to read hundreds of patient stories or to submit your own story, visit
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