TO JUMP OR NOT TO JUMP: CAN MY CHILD REALLY FLY?
Today, our kids are trending towards moving into the more extreme sports, wall (rock) climbing, tumbling, acrobatics, trampoline jumping and other feats of flying through the air, not to mention skateboarding, snow-boarding, and playground activities, filled with loops, jumps and all other forms of treacherous obstacles and equipment that can lead to injury. These activities have become a birthday-party craze. Even the small play area at your local McDonald's can be filled with hazards if the equipment and activities are not properly taken care of or monitored. In many cases children and young people entering these facilities have little or no experience with these activities or equipment, which puts them in a dangerous position from the start, and there are so many kids that only a few moments of training or supervision from staff is simply not enough.
Additionally, there has to be some way of insuring that the equipment is and safe condition, considering the risk involved. Climbing walls should have cables that secure the user to the wall in case of a misstep or loss of grip, trampoline mats need to be tight and not loose or sagging, and be surrounded by foam walls or pits. Helmets should be supplied, and so on.
Surveys have found that each year in the United States, hospitals treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for injuries suffered on the playground or in gym-type facilities. Over 20,000 of the children injured suffer some form of traumatic brain injury (TBI), ranging from a concussion to more severe head trauma.
Occurrence and Consequences of Playground-Related Injuries
All Emergency Room/Hospital-Treated, Playground-Related Injuries
- About 56% of playground injuries that are treated are fractures and contusions/abrasions.
- About 75% of injuries of the injuries occur on public playgrounds. Most occur at a place of recreation or school, and today more are resulting in the "indoor" types of gyms.
Primary causes of playground or gym-related injuries:
If equipment is not kept in tip-top shape, or your child is not being provided some level of reasonable training or supervision, accidents can and do happen:
- Broken bones
- Cuts and lacerations
- Injuries from equipment failures
- Collisions with other children or equipment, and
- Other bodily traumas
So, before you drop your child off at that gym or climbing wall, or let him wander into the play area, make sure there seems be a proactive level of supervision, that the facility seems well maintained, and that there is a good ratio of staff to participants. Read the rules and procedures, and keep in mind many of these facilities will have parents or the adult in charge sign a waiver of liability should their child be injured while participating in activities or due to accidents caused by deficient equipment, even if the facility or staff is at fault or the equipment is defective.
Guidance for parents:
- Go to a facility that gets good referrals from friends or family for being safe, well run and maintained;
- Read the rule and procedures for use. If you don't feel comfortable, don't take the risk. We're sorry, but don't let peer pressure guide you or your child into taking a risk you know they may not be equipped for;
- Try to make sure that the facility provides some level of training or instruction before allowing your child to use an apparatus or engage in the activity, but keep in mind beginners are beginners; it's trial and error;
Make sure that safety equipment is provided for those apparatus' or activities that present a higher degree of danger (helmets, cables, climbing shoes), particularly if the apparatus is of height - e.g. a climbing wall; and finally, don't be afraid to be a parent. If you think the activity is beyond your child's ability be willing to say "No" even if all of the other kids are doing it.
Read the waiver. We know it's generally the small print, but don't let the gym or facility off the hook for its own negligence; lack of adequate supervision, safety equipment, or defective equipment. Many places have parents or children of age sign waivers, even covering their own screw-ups. So read the waiver or fine print beforehand.
CALL TO ACTION