Swings, slides, and monkey bars — children’s eyes light up at even the mention of them. While getting your child to do homework or chores might sometimes be a struggle, no effort is needed to get him or her to the playground.

After all, it’s a fun place to socialize with friends and burn off some energy. Unfortunately, it can also be a place for injury, including concussions.

The likelihood of a concussion is greatest during activities where collisions or falls can occur. With young children especially, concussions can happen during playtime or “roughhousing” with friends or siblings.

Whereas older children may have an athletic trainer watching out for them during athletic events, younger children might not even realize they hurt themselves. Nor will they know to tell their parents that something serious may have happened. This makes diagnosing concussion in young children more difficult.

Concussion symptoms in younger children also present differently. Kids tend to exhibit behavior changes, more fatigue, and changes in their sleep patterns. These are all things parents or teachers may notice but that the children don’t report. In comparison, teenagers are typically able to tell someone that they feel dizzy or have a headache.

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Simple Steps to Make the Playground Safer for Children

To help reduce the likelihood of concussion and other injuries, here are some simple steps that parents can take to make time on the playground safer for their children:

  • Always keep an eye on your child.
  • Pay attention to the condition of the playground equipment, as well as the ages and activity of the other children on the playground.
  • Ideally, there should be separate play areas for pre-school children away from older children.
  • Remove hoods or drawstrings that might get caught on playground equipment
  • Make sure the surfaces around the playground equipment where a child might land are filled with loose fill, such as wood chips, sand, or gravel.

Children’s brains are still doing a lot of developing in their young years. If a concussion is sustained, the brain has to both develop and recover at the same time, making the recovery process slower.

If you witness your child taking a tumble on the playground, keep an eye on his or her behavior. It’s important to get evaluated by a medical professional trained in concussion management if differences are noted. And if your child loses consciousness, has mental status changes, or experiences severe vomiting, you should seek emergency medical treatment immediately.

About Sports Medicine

Sports and physical activity bring with them a potential for injury. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury – or improve athletic performance – UPMC Sports Medicine and the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program can help. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our experts partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers, and about 100 other high school, college, and regional teams and events throughout Pennsylvania – working daily to build better athletes.