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Child Traumatic Brain Injuries on the Rise at Playgrounds

October 18, 2016

Playgrounds Are Becoming More Dangerous

Even in our age of advancing technology, many of us remember recess on the playground with a special fondness, and children today benefit just as much from the exercise, socialization, and learning through play that are woven into outdoor playground activities.

Unfortunately, the developmental and recreational benefits of playgrounds are being threatened by a significant rise in traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) being suffered at these supposedly child-friendly locations, even as the facilities continue to introduce new safety features.

Child Injuries at Playgrounds on the Rise

On average, 200,000 children age 14 or under receive treatment in emergency departments every year for playground-related injuries. From 2005 to 2013, however, the rate of playground-related injuries more than doubled, including a twofold increase in the rate of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).

This rise of injuries has occurred in spite of new safety features that have appeared on playgrounds. For example, many locations have been upgrading their play areas with impact-absorbing surfaces such as rubber, engineered wood fiber, and pea gravel below equipment instead of packed dirt, asphalt, or concrete.

Another safety feature that playgrounds have been implementing is increased spacing between pieces of equipment as well as between equipment and high-traffic zones like entrances and exits. This safety measure helps prevent overcrowding and reduces the risk of injury by, for example, ensuring that children walking from place to place will not get in the path of children using swings.

While public health experts continue to investigate the causes behind this rise in TBIs, one possible explanation is that new safety measures like the ones mentioned above have caused children to be less cautious in their play, or have led parents and other supervisors to pay less attention while observing children because they underestimate the risk of injury.

Studies have already noted a similar “backfiring” effect to new safety measures in sports like football, where more effective safety equipment like helmets and pads have emboldened players to hit each other with more force and less caution, which in turn has resulted in an increase rather than a reduction in injuries.

Ways to Avoid Playground-Related TBIs and Other Playground Injuries

The best way to avoid playground-related TBIs and other injuries is to use common sense when evaluating a playground and supervise children carefully, even if the playground seems relatively safe.

Important safety features to look for at playgrounds include the following:

  • Soft and absorbent material or surfaces underneath and surrounding play equipment: Wood chips, sand, mulch, rubber, and synthetic tile are all safer than grass, hard dirt, concrete, and asphalt. It’s also important that the concrete footings of play equipment are not exposed and out in the open.
  • Equipment that is in good condition: Rust, loose/missing guardrails, exposed hardware (bolts, nuts, hooks, etc.), and other obvious signs of wear and tear can all pose a hazard to children at play.
  • No tripping hazards: Tree roots, large rocks, sudden elevation changes, exposed equipment footings, and other protrusions can pose a tripping hazard to children on a playground and increase their risk for injury.

Remember, even if a playground is loaded with safety features and seems to pose no obvious risk, children at play need careful supervision. They may notice the same safety features you do and take greater risks in their play. And Murphy’s Law seems to ring true with young children most of all: if something can go wrong, a curious and playful child will likely find a way to get into trouble.

The Law Office of William D. Cook: Helping TBI Victims

If you or your child has experienced an injury, especially a TBI, at a playground or other recreational facility, it’s worth investigating whether or not you have legal recourse to get justice and receive compensation to help you pay for medical bills, pain, suffering, and more.

At the Law Office of William D. Cook, we offer free consultations so you can tell us your story and we can provide you with honest advice about your best course of action moving forward. If we can help you pursue a personal injury claim, then we’ll handle your case on a contingent fee basis, which means you don’t have to pay attorney fees unless we make a recovery on your behalf.

One of the biggest mistakes parents and injured victims make is thinking an injury will simply go away. It won’t, so don’t hesitate to talk with a qualified and experienced attorney. Call Bill Cook today at (800) 757-7757 or fill out a convenient online contact form and we will get in touch with you right away.


Cheng, T.A., Bell, J.M., Haileyesus, T., Gilchrist, J., Sugerman, D.E., & Coronado, V.G. (2016, May). Nonfatal playground-related traumatic brain injuries among children, 2001-2013. Pediatrics. Retrieved from

Playground safety. (2016, May 2). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from

Reeves, D. (2016). The most important playground safety features. Daily Parent. Retrieved from


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