Safe Kids USA, a national network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional childhood injury, announced that National Playground Safety Week is taking place this week from April 23 to April 27. The safety group notes that this awareness event “is a time to focus on your children’s outdoor play environments.”
- Use playgrounds with a ground covering of shredded rubber, mulch, wood chips, or sand. Soil and grass are not considered safe surfaces.
- The playground surfacing materials should extend 6 feet around equipment and be at least 12 inches deep.
- Ensure playground equipment receives frequent inspection and is kept in good repair. Report issues to the local parks and recreations office if it appears this is not the case.
- Do not let children wear helmets, necklaces, purses, or scarves on the playground and remove hood and neck drawstrings from their clothing and outerwear before taking them.
- Do not allow toddlers under the age of five to play on equipment designed for older children.
- Give children your undivided attention while they use playground equipment by actively supervising them.
The importance of playground safety was driven home this February with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recall of the Slalom Glider, a playground slide which has been blamed in the injury of 16 children under the age of eight. About 900 of these slides, which lack a transition platform and chute sides, were recalled after injury reports that included bone fractures, bruises, and even a bruised spleen.
However, National Playground Safety Week is just a component of Safe Kids Week, which is celebrated this year from April 21 through April 28. Initiated in 1988, this annual nationwide event helps parents and caregivers “understand a different part of childhood injury prevention.”
Initiatives that take place during Safe Kids Week include:
- Public Education and Coalition Activities-these include school safety fairs, parent education workshops, and other events.
- Legislative Advocacy-child safety laws are promoted and strengthened during these activities.
- Research-new research about preventing injuries related to the year’s theme is published.
- Media Outreach-media strategies are formed to help inform the public of the important injury prevention topics presented during this event.
- Retail Promotions and Advertising Partnerships-media partnerships allow Safe Kids to distribute their message of child injury prevention to millions of homes during this safety awareness week.
This year’s events also feature an emphasis on concussion prevention and sports safety. Safe Kids Oregon, that state’s affiliate of Safe Kids USA, reports that every year more than 3.5 million children receive medical care for sports injuries.
Fortunately, the group explains that most of these injuries are preventable. In order to protect children nationwide, Safe Kids USA offers the following “C-O-A-C-H-E-S” tips to coaches, parents, and sport organizers:
- C-Condition kids with a warm up before games and practice, followed by stretching.
- O-Overuse Injury Prevention needs to occur due to the risk of injuries brought on when children do not get the proper amount of rest after practices and games.
- A-Advanced Planning allows coaches to prepare for emergencies. This includes pre-participation physicals for children, storing parent contact information, having a first aid kit, and developing a plan in the event of a medical emergency.
- C-Concussion Awareness due to the seriousness and difficulty in recognizing these injuries.
- H-Hydrating before, during, and after games and practices. Regular hydration breaks need to be a part of coaching.
- E-Equipment needs to be in good condition, properly fitted, and worn during every game and practice.
- S-Safety Training is essential and easier to come by than coaches may believe. Safe Kids Worldwide provides free sports safety tip sheets to parents and coaches in both Spanishand English.
A recent Chicago Tribune article emphasized the need for better youth sport injury tracking after the death of a 12-year-old boy who was struck in the head with a baseball while practicing with a teammate. Although careful injury records are kept for athletes at both the college and high school level, no such records are kept for the youngest athletes in the U.S.
According to researchers, by tracking and monitoring youth sport injuries better, accident trends can be identified, equipment can be improved, and rule changes can take place to increase safety for young athletes. These changes, along with the efforts of Safe Kids USA, are helping to extend the focus of childhood injury prevention past this week’s events and ensure as many of these injuries are avoided in the future as possible.