Background/purpose: There have been many different studies of injuries owing to playground equipment but none that have looked in detail using large nationwide databases. It was the purpose of this study to investigate injuries owing to playground equipment using the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database and further understand their demographics.
Methods: Detailed NEISS injury data from 2002 through 2004 for slides, monkey bars, and swings were analyzed. Appropriate statistical analyses were performed; because of the many analyses on this large data set, P < .01 was considered statistically significant.
Results: There were 22728 emergency department visits owing to playground equipment injuries recorded by NEISS between 2002 and 2004; 83.9% were owing to monkey bars, swings, and slides, and the 5 most common diagnoses were fractures (39.3%), contusions/abrasions (20.6%), lacerations (16.6%), strains/sprains (9.9%), and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) (8.5%). There were 9487 boys (54.3%) and 7995 girls (45.7%). The average age was 6.5 +/- 3.0 years. The injuries occurred at school in 38.9%; at a recreation/sporting facility, in 35.5%; and at home, in 25.6%. Most were treated and released (94.4%). Amerindian children were 2 times more likely than blacks to be admitted; compared to contusions, fractures were 9.8 times, and TBIs, 4.7 times more likely to be admitted. Injuries on monkey bars were 1.2 times more likely to be admitted than those on swings or slides. Fractures were 1.9 times more likely to occur on a monkey bar compared with swings or slides. Traumatic brain injuries were 1.4 times more likely to occur on a swing compared to slides or monkey bars.
Conclusion: Swings at school are the most common mechanism of injury for TBIs, and the seasonal data would suggest that increased supervision of children using swings during school hours might reduce the occurrence of TBIs. Monkey bars are the most common cause of fracture, and fracture is the most common cause of admission. Prevention strategies to reduce the number of fractures should be directed at monkey bar equipment and landing surfaces. The trend in playground equipment injury also indicates that monkey bars are problematic because the number of injuries per year per capita owing to monkey bars is stable, whereas those from swings and slides is decreasing.