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Monkey bars alert: Playground concussions are on the rise


    Kamalei Kwock, 4, of Manoa enjoyed sliding on the spiral slide at the playground at Manoa District Park in Manoa on Feb. 3.

CHICAGO » Playground concussions are on the rise, according to a new government study, and monkey bars and swings are most often involved.

Most injuries studied were mild, but all concussions are potentially serious and the researchers say the trend raises public health and safety concerns.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study examined national 2001-2013 data on playground injuries to kids aged 14 and younger who received emergency-room treatment. Of almost 215,000 kids on average treated yearly, almost 10 percent — about 21,000 annually — had traumatic brain injuries including concussions. Only nonfatal injuries were included.

Here are some key findings, published online Monday in Pediatrics:


In 2005, 23 out of 100,000 kids had traumatic brain injuries, a rate that jumped to 48 out of 100,000 in 2013. The rate declined in the previous years but increased steadily after that. By 2013, the annual total was almost 30,000 kids treated for these brain injuries.

The rise may mean parents are becoming increasingly aware of the potential seriousness of concussions and the need for treatment. It’s also possible more kids are using playground equipment, the researchers said.


Only 3 percent of kids with concussions were hospitalized or transferred elsewhere for additional treatment; 95 percent were sent home after ER treatment. Half of the head injuries were in kids ages 5 to 9 and injuries were more common in boys. Symptoms weren’t listed but signs of concussions after a blow to the head can include headaches, dizziness, confusion, nausea and vomiting.


Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury typically resulting from a blow to the head that jostles the brain and temporarily disrupts brain function. Symptoms can last days or weeks and while most kids completely recover, repeated blows to the head have been linked with brain damage — most notably in some retired NFL players.

Dr. Jeneita Bell, a CDC brain injury specialist who co-authored the study, said the results highlight “that sports is not the only important cause of concussions and other traumatic brain injuries for children.”


Playground equipment most commonly involved in concussions included monkey bars and swings. The study lacked details on how kids got hurt but many concussions result from falls and the researchers’ recommendations include using soft ground surfaces including wood chips or sand, rather than concrete.

The researchers said adult supervision is key to helping prevent these injuries. They also recommend checking to make sure playground equipment is in good condition.

Bell also recommends reading playground signs “and using playground equipment that is right for your child’s age.”


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  • Playground concussions are on the rise, really? Monkey bars have been around for a 100 years. Are kids getting, dumber?
    SA won’t let me say stu pid er. It’s waiting moderation, SA stay away from monkey bars. 🙂

  • The picture is of a kid on a slide yet the accusations fly on the monkey bars and swings. That this is a issue shows you where our societies worries are. Go back to sleep, all is good.

    • I guess we have to keep our kids in the house watching tv, or play video games for their safety. Too dangerous to go outside exercise, or play sports.

      • That’s probably the main reason kids get hurt today. They spend too much time indoors and are weaker, less agile and less coordinated than kids of long ago. I say if you’re going to allow couch/ipad potatoes, have ’em wear a safety helmet outdoors. 🙂

        • Not true. Children playing video games too long are subject to Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD) which can damage the nerves and muscles in young hands and wrists.

          Mo bettah being outside to play.

  • Feel sorry for the children of this day and age. Living among modern day environment, with questionable playground’s equipments, whether within a city or metropolitan areas. Unlike us during the hey day of the Plantation Era, we were given much freedom to roam and run with the wind in our hairs, for those of us growing up in the country. We had hills and mountains to climb, open fields to run without restraint, gulches to swim and frolics about, trees to climb and forests to “hide and seek”! Those were the days!

    • Agree 100%. You go to a playground nowadays and what is there to do? There are no swings, no see-saws, no merry go-rounds, nothing. You go to the elementary schools and you can’t play dodge-ball or sham-battle, just run around in circles.

  • Maybe today’s kids are just clumsier. I know many of my peers suffered falls and spills on asphalt and concrete (there weren’t safety mats or anything in those days. If we were lucky, there’d be some dirt under the swings) growing up. This was caused by going down the slide head first, or playing “shove” football on the street (without shoes on!). Normally, you’d rub some dirt on it, then somebody would come up with another game to play and wa la! off you went, totally forgetting that you just fell down.

  • Sad but laughable when you read, “The study lacked details on how kids got hurt.”

    Isn’t this supposed to be the main purpose of the study? Find out exactly what is causing the problem and fix it?

    Sounds exactly like how work is done in the Nei when clueless elected bureaucrats are in charge.

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