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Traumatic Brain Injuries on Playgrounds

Concussion awareness is a hot-button issue in the field of athletics. Youth sports are a common source of concern for parents. The danger of concussions is an issue frequently raised in connection with football, soccer and other contact sports. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrates that parents should also be aware of the potential for brain injuries on the playground. According to researchers, the number of serious head injuries suffered on playgrounds has risen sharply in recent years.

In 2001, 18,000 children ages 14 and under were treated in hospital emergency rooms for playground-related head injuries. By 2013, the number had risen to more than 29,000. Many of the injuries occurred on school playground and recreational sports facilities. The numbers clearly show that youth sports are not the only culprit in exposing kids to traumatic brain injuries

The numbers from the CDC do not support a definitive conclusion as to why head injuries are on the rise. A medical officer with the CDC suggested that the heightened awareness regarding the dangers of concussions has led more parents to seek treatment for children who have suffered head trauma. Researchers pointed out that the increase in brain injury cases has coincided with improved safety standards in playgrounds. The measures are clearly insufficient to prevent brain injuries by themselves.

The research director at the Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami suggested that adult supervision plays a prominent role in improving playground safety. She also cited the finding that monkey bars are frequently the cause of head injuries and cautioned parents to instruct their children on the proper use of the equipment.

Softer surfaces and improved safety may be giving kids and parents an unwarranted sense of security. Playgrounds are not without risk. Children require supervision and instruction on the proper use of age-appropriate equipment.

Sources: CBS News, "Playground-related brain injuries on the rise," by Kathleen Doheny, 2 May 2016 

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