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Top 4 Playground Injury Causes and Prevention Tips

As summer arrives and pandemic restrictions ease, more families may be active outdoors at places like playgrounds. This can be an exciting place for children to play and explore but the CDC estimates that each year more than 200,000 children are treated in hospital emergency departments for playground injuries. Drew Warnick, M.D., a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon who treats patients at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, discusses the most common injuries and how parents can prevent them.

What are the most common causes of playground injuries?

  • Swings
  • Slides
  • Monkey Bars
  • Falls

What types of injuries do you see from playground injuries?

Sprains and strains, broken bones, dislocations and concussions.

How do we prevent playground injuries?

Close supervision by a responsible adult may be the most important factor in preventing playground injuries. Adults should also assess the playground for soft ground (no asphalt or concrete) and ensure the equipment is not faulty. Your child should be wearing tennis shoes and sunscreen. Remember that the sun makes metal hot, which can burn your child’s skin. Avoid playing on wet equipment either as it can cause a slip and fall.

What to watch for:


  • Swing seats should be made of rubber or plastic.
  • Never stand on or jump off the swing.
  • Be careful when walking in front of moving swings to avoid getting hit accidentally.
  • Only one person at a time should ride a spring rocker. Sit down while rocking.


  • Go down the slide one person at a time, feet first.
  • Wait until the person in front of you is on the ground and has moved away from the slide.
  • Never climb up the front of the slide.
  • It is common for parents to want to slide down with a young child on their lap. This is very dangerous as a shoe can get caught in the slide and the force of the parent behind the child twists the leg, causing it to break.

Monkey Bars

Most serious playground injuries are caused by a fall from monkey bars. Younger children don’t have good upper arm strength and can easily slip and fall. They naturally protect themselves by falling on an outstretched hand and break the bones in the forearm or elbow.

  • Make sure the supervising adult is in a position where you can catch the child or make sure that your child has sufficient arm strength before attempting monkey bars.


Children fall because they slip, lose their grip or lose their balance while playing on playground equipment.

  • Climb stairs or steps slowly.
  • Hold onto the handrails, and don’t climb over guard rails.

Learn more:

About the Author: Drew Warnick, M.D., is a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon who treats patients at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. He sees patients in the St. Petersburg and Tampa locations of Children’s Orthopaedic and Scoliosis Surgery Associates (COSSA), L.L.P., the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Outpatient Care location in Sarasota, and at IMG Academy where Johns Hopkins All Children’s provides sports medicine and general health services. COSSA is the exclusive provider of pediatric orthopaedic services at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Warnick is an affiliate assistant professor in the USF Morsani College of Medicine Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine.

Dr. Warnick is board certified and a member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America, Arthroscopy Association of North America, the Pinellas and Hillsborough County Medical Societies, the Florida Orthopaedic Society, and Health Volunteers Overseas. His recent research includes measuring strain in the individual ACL bundles under large quadriceps forces and the arthroscopic treatment of multidirectional shoulder instability in young athletes.

Dr. Warnick earned his medical degree from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois. He completed his orthopaedic surgery residency at the Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois, and a fellowship in pediatric orthopaedic surgery and pediatric sports medicine at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite Hospital. He was then awarded the Charles M. Schwartz traveling fellowship and studied at the Axis Sports Medicine Specialists (formerly UniSports and Adidas Sports Medicine) in Auckland, New Zealand.

*Drew Warnick, M.D., is on the medical staff of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Inc. (“JHACH”), but is an independent practitioner who is not an employee or agent of JHACH.

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Drew Warnick, M.D.
Drew Warnick, M.D.
Drew Warnick, M.D. is a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon who treats patients at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

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