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Playground mishaps represent leading cause of injury to elementary students

Playground accidents are the leading cause of injury to children in kindergarten to sixth grade.

In Utah, an average of 940 elementary students are injured on school playgrounds annually. Most injuries are not fatal and 75 percent are due to falls. Data for school years 1999-2000 to 2003-2004 show that the most common body areas injured were the arm at 29 percent, hand/wrist at 16 percent and head at 10 percent.

"A child who falls 10 feet is at risk of spinal cord injury, paralysis and death," said Georgina Nowak, Safe Kids Southeast Utah Chapter coordinator. "Protective surface materials can make a life and death difference."

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission issues guidelines for playground surfacing and age-appropriate warning labels on equipment.

"Nothing can take the place of active supervision, but we do need to make sure our kids are playing in safe environments in the first place," said Nowak. "The ground should be covered 12 inches deep with shredded rubber, hardwood fiber mulch or fine sand, extending at least six feet in all directions around the equipment."

Monitors need to supervise students on the playground.

"Simply being in the same place as the children isn't necessarily supervising," said Nowak. "Kids on a playground need an adult's undivided attention."

Children's clothing should be free of drawstrings and fit snugly to minimize the risk of getting stuck in equipment. Students should not wear helmets, necklaces or scarves or engage in pushing or crowding around playground equipment.

The handbook is available on the Internet at or toll-free at 800-638-2772. For information, residents may call Nowak at 637-3671 or visit

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