Traumatic Brain Injuries Caused by Playground Accidents on the Rise

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Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys - Injuries to ChildrenThe Journal Pediatrics published a report yesterday about a significant rise, from 2001 to 2013, in the amount of emergency department visits caused by playground-related head injuries in children aged infant to fourteen years old.

From 2001 to 2013, a yearly average of 21,100 children were treated in emergency rooms for traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The lowest in that average was in 2005, with 13,720 TBI treated. The highest occurrence was in 2012 with 32,020 head injuries treated, followed by 29, 410 in 2013. The report blamed monkey bars, playground gyms, and swings as the cause for the vast majority of these traumatic brain injuries, with the most popular of these causes varying with patient age.

It’s difficult to pin down a cause for the drastic rise in playground-related TBI since playgrounds are generally much safer then they were in the past. Softer, more resilient surfaces are being used to pave playgrounds, and the play equipment itself is designed for safer play. The research data, however, helps paint a somewhat clear picture of possible causes for the TBI increase.

A national injury surveillance system provided the discharge data that Journal Pediatrics researchers used for their study. The data provides a few different possibilities;

  1. Government regulations and insurance reimbursements have required that emergency department discharge information become much more specific. Considering this, coding could be the cause in the sudden rise, simply because an ED visit that would previously be coded as a “fall” or a “head injury” is coded today more specifically as a “playground-related fall resulting in head injury.”
  2. Increased awareness and knowledge of the potentially devastating effects of untreated head injuries has driven more parents, caregivers, and educators to take a more serious approach when children fall at the playground. Before, a child who fell at the playground might be told to rub it or “kiss it to God.” Today an injury to the head is taken much more seriously.

So, while the number of emergency department visits caused by playground-related head injuries has gone up, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the number of playground-related head injuries has gone up with it. According to the study, only 2.6 percent of children with playground head injuries were hospitalized or transferred to receive further treatment.

Medical Opinion of Pediatric Study

Gary A Emmett, M.D., F.A.A.P., Director of Hospital Pediatrics at TJU Hospital, Pediatrics Professor at Thomas Jefferson University, and contributor to’s Healthy Kids blog, had his own opinions on the conclusions to be drawn from the playground head-injury study.

The Journal Pediatrics researchers, in their conclusions, call for improved playground design, maintenance, and surfacing. Dr. Emmett, who doesn’t necessarily object to making safer playground equipment, does site the fact that European playground equipment is significantly less safe then new American ones and used more frequently. He isn’t convinced that it’s the playground equipment at fault here.

The researchers also recognize the need for “appropriate supervision and child behavior modification.” Dr. Emmett believes that some aspect of this is true – the aspect that addresses the vast majority of parents that sit and stare at cell phones while their children play, unobserved. However, he makes a good point that while supervision is vital and necessary to a young child’s safety, too much supervision or intervention could interrupt the long-term development of a child’s social and problem solving skills.

Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys Represent Families of Children Injured on Playgrounds

Messa & Associates, P.C. is experienced and successful in cases involving injuries and death on playgrounds. In 2015, the firm earned a $6.1 Million settlement for a three-year-old girl who lost her eye on a playground fence. In 2010, Messa & Associates earned a $5.75 Million settlement for the family of a two-year-old girl who died after becoming trapped and suffocating underneath a playground slide.

If your child has been injured in a playground accident or by defective or faulty playground equipment, please do not hesitate to contact the Philadelphia personal injury attorneys at Messa & Associates by calling toll free, 877-MessaLaw, for a free consultation. You may also submit an online inquiry and received a free case evaluation.


Call the Philadelphia personal injury lawyers of Messa & Associates today to discuss your case with a professional who has the knowledge to answer your questions or submit a free online inquiry.

Call, toll-free, 1-877-MessaLaw (637-7252), or submit a free online inquiry form.

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