Children at play: the death and injury pattern in New South Wales, Australia, July 1990-June 1994

J Paediatr Child Health. 1999 Dec;35(6):572-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1754.1999.00433.x.


Objectives: To describe and to understand the pattern of play-related deaths and injury (excluding organized sports) among children in New South Wales (NSW), Australia.

Methodology: This study utilized a state-wide prospective surveillance data collection of paediatric traumatic deaths and injuries at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children. Deaths and injury cases were selected from the NSW Trauma Death Registry and Childsafe NSW database. Information including basic demographics, the surrounding circumstances of death and injury incidents, and the required treatment was collected.

Results: There were 30 play-related deaths and 92 drownings over the 4-year period. The male to female ratio was about 2:1. Excluding drowning, which has been reported elsewhere, and sports, the leading causes of play-related deaths were burns (eight) and asphyxiation (eight). An average of 6444 presentations to the emergency departments per year were recorded with sex ratio and age distribution pattern similar to the deaths. The home was the most common place (55.5%) of play-related injury, specifically the living and sleeping area. Falls, both under and above 1 metre, were the most common causes of injury (50.9%). The leading mechanism was cuts and lacerations (21.2%). Nearly one-third (32.7%) of all injuries were to the head, with face, cheek, forehead and scalp as the most common injured body part. Significant associations between place of injury, injured body parts and age were observed.

Conclusions: Play-related injury is common among children, and in some cases causes severe injury and death. To tackle the problem of play-related deaths and injuries, a holistic approach is suggested. This includes the provision of a safe environment, supervision by parents, education of children and detailed data collection.

MeSH terms

  • Accident Prevention
  • Accidents / mortality
  • Accidents / statistics & numerical data*
  • Accidents, Home / mortality
  • Accidents, Home / statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Play and Playthings*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychological Theory
  • Sex Distribution
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / prevention & control