Playground Safety is Associated With Playground, Park, and Neighborhood Characteristics

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Journal of Physical Activity and Health


Background: More than 200,000 children each year are treated at emergency departments for injuries occurring on playgrounds. Empirically derived data are needed to elucidate factors associated with playground safety and reduce injury rates.

Objective: Determine if neighborhood, park and playground characteristics are significantly associated with playground safety.

Methods: A 24-item report card developed by the National Program for Playground Safety was used to assess playground safety at 41 public parks in a small to midsized, Midwestern city. Trained assessors evaluated the parks and playgrounds in June/July and used a standardized method to count the numbers of users. Data from the 2010 U.S. Census were used to describe the neighborhoods surrounding the parks.

Results: The average safety score for all playgrounds was 77.4% which denotes acceptable safety levels. However, 17.1% of the playgrounds were potentially hazardous and in need of corrective measures. Playgrounds were safer in neighborhoods with more youth (< 18 years of age) and educated adults and in parks with better quality features. Playgrounds with fewer amenities were relatively less safe.

Conclusions: Park safety levels need to be improved to reduce the risk of physical injuries. Future studies examining cause-effect associations between environmental features and playground safety are warranted.



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