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Concussions in Playgrounds

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that can occur when the head is hit, shaken, or jolted. It can cause temporary loss of consciousness, confusion, headache, dizziness, and other symptoms. Children are especially vulnerable to concussions because their brains are still developing and they may not be able to recognize the symptoms.

According (USA CDC), around 283,000 children are treated in emergency departments for sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, every year in the United States. Playground-related injuries account for a significant portion of these injuries. In fact, a study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found that playgrounds were the leading location for nonfatal injuries among children under age 15.

There are several ways that children can sustain a concussion in a playground. Falls from play equipment, collisions with other children, and being struck by equipment are some of the common causes of playground-related concussions. Additionally, if the playground equipment is not properly maintained, it can pose a risk of injury.

Falls from play equipment are the most common cause of playground-related injuries, including concussions. One way to reduce the risk of head injuries from falls is to use impact attenuation surfacing on playgrounds. Impact attenuation surfacing is designed to absorb impact and reduce the risk of injury when a child falls from playground equipment. This type of surfacing can include materials such as impact certified loosefill (woodchip, bark, sand, pea gravel) or certified synthetics including rubber tiles, or poured-in-place rubber.

It's important to note that impact attenuation surfacing is just one of many factors that can help reduce the risk of concussions and other playground-related injuries. Other factors include proper maintenance of equipment, proper use of equipment, and adult supervision.

As a parent or caregiver, it's essential to be able to detect the signs of a concussion in a child who has had a head injury in a playground. Symptoms of a concussion can occur immediately after the injury or may not appear until hours or days later.

The signs and symptoms of a concussion may include:

  • Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head

  • Temporary loss of consciousness

  • Confusion or feeling as if in a fog.

  • Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event.

  • Dizziness or "seeing stars”.

  • Ringing in the ears

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Slurred speech or other changes in speech

  • Fatigue or feeling sluggish.

  • Irritability, depression, or mood changes

  • Difficulty with memory or concentration

  • Sensitivity to light or noise

In small children you may also observe the following:

  • A dazed appearance

  • Irritability

  • Loss of balance

  • Excessive crying

  • Vomiting

  • Seizures

If you notice any of these symptoms in your child after they have had a head injury in a playground, seek medical attention immediately. The severity of traumatic brain injuries is not always immediately apparent, and a prompt medical evaluation may prevent a worsening condition.Remember that a concussion can have serious consequences, so it's important not to take any chances.

How is a concussion diagnosed? To diagnose a concussion, your child's doctor will conduct a physical examination and ask questions about the injury. Based on their findings, they may perform some or all of the following:

  • Assess balance, coordination, and reflexes

  • Check your child's hearing and vision

  • Test your child's strength and sensation

  • Evaluate your child's cognitive function, including memory and concentration

  • Conduct imaging tests

If your child experiences severe symptoms such as seizures or vomiting, or if their symptoms worsen, the doctor may recommend imaging tests. MRIs are often preferred for children because they involve less radiation exposure. However, in certain cases, a CT scan may be necessary.

In conclusion, concussions can occur in playgrounds, and parents or caregivers must take precautions to protect their children. Using impact attenuation surfacing is an effective way to reduce the risk of head injuries from falls, but it is important to remember that it is just one part of a comprehensive approach to playground safety.

By being aware of the risks and taking steps to mitigate them, we can help ensure that our children have a safe and enjoyable time in the playground.


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