Playground Injuries

It's All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses an Eye

Is it just me, or are we trying to make childhood accident-proof? All the really good playgrounds -- with stainless steel slides that reach nearly 5000 degrees in the summer, and the big wooden play structures made from splintered redwoods -- have been replaced with sterile, plastic playgrounds filled with bright colors, pirateship steering wheels and tic-tac-toe. Nice try. But no matter how safe the playground is, kids will be kids and something's getting broken.


Don't tell the playground police, but trees are made of wood, too. Junior might not get a splinter from the redwood jungle gym, but that sequoia lurking next to the water fountain is just waiting to strike.

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Broken Bones

broken wrist
(c) Sabrina Cherry
A favorite sport among the first graders at my daughter's school was the Monkey-Bar Chicken Fight. One little lady was the playground champion until she slipped one day in a heated match. Landing on her leg just the right way left her in a cast from hip to toe and on the injured-reserve list for the rest of the year. She was still quite popular; most of the kids loved taking rides in her wheelchair.

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swollen ankle
Get some ice on that, stat!. Leslie Antonis
A hallmark of any good schoolyard playground? Gophers. Stepping in a hole during a great game of kickball is a surefire ticket to take a ride on the sprain train. Ankles are the most common sites of this injury, but depending on how one lands, wrists may be just as much at risk.

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Spinal Injuries

man in cervical collar
Falling and hitting your head is one way to injure your neck. Keith Getter / Getty Images
Not common, though particularly dangerous, spinal injuries are a danger whenever kids leave the ground floor. I used to love launching myself off the swingset at the pinnacle of the forward arc. Good thing I never took a header.

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Head Injuries

Unequal Pupils
Unequal pupils can be a sign of traumatic brain injury or an injury to one eye. It can be from a harmless condition called aniscoria, or it can be from an eye doctor appointment, like this is. (c) Deborah Austin
Of course, if Junior does take a header off the swings, he may clobber his noggin hard enough to do some real damage. I'm much more worried about my kids clocking their melons on that chunky school asphalt than on the freaky mulch under the slide. Huh, I wonder how many splinters they get from the mulch (see above).

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Facial Injuries

boy with cut on face
Minor cuts on the face can be nothing or cause permanent scars. Ian Boddy / Getty Images

I'm still waiting for the TV news magazine expose on the dangers of tether ball. I think every kid worth standing in the circle has taken one straight in the smeller. And if the school nurse isn't tending to a nosebleed, she is putting an ice pack on the black eye your little angel got from an elbow thrown while wrestling for control of the ship's wheel. Don't even get me started on dodgeball!

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