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Kids' playground injuries in 100s

By Lydia Anderson

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Not all of Northland's kids are playing as safely as this young man. Photo/John Stone
Not all of Northland's kids are playing as safely as this young man. Photo/John Stone

Hundreds of Northland kids are being injured at playgrounds every year, sparking warnings to parents to watch over their children.

More than 2370 Northland playground injury claims have been lodged with ACC since 2008, costing taxpayers $578,189 in rehabilitation costs.

Northland boys suffer more injuries than girls, and 5 to 9-year-olds are most prone to painful playground accidents, ACC figures show.

Nationwide, monkey bars caused the most injuries, followed by flying foxes, jungle gyms, climbing frames, seesaws and merry-go-rounds.

Whangarei District Council parks technical officer Spencer Jellyman said Whangarei council playgrounds were designed in accordance with New Zealand standards for playground equipment and surfacing, which are not mandatory, but set out best practice design guidelines.

Council playgrounds were also designed to fit best with their user demographic, he said.

For instance, a redesign of Kensington Park playground would be done with a "sporty feel" because of the nearby sportsgrounds.

Overall, council playgrounds were safe, and he was not aware of many serious incidents in the past year.

While it was rare to get negative feedback, he had one complaint recently because a slide was too hot in the middle of the day.

"There's a certain amount of 'user beware' or common sense that has to be involved with that."

Occasional calls about broken glass or vandalised equipment were attended to within 24 hours, he said.

Statistics gathered by Safekids New Zealand show fall-related injuries, which include falling from playground equipment, are the leading cause of unintentional child injury resulting in hospital admission.

Between 2005 and 2009, more than 1700 children aged between 5 and 9 were admitted to hospital each year on average after suffering falls, according to data from the University of Otago. Boys were more likely to be hospitalised than girls and more than half of all fall-related child hospitalisations involved falls from playground equipment.

Safekids director Ann Weaver said primary school-aged children suffered the most injuries as they started to gain independence and became subject to less parental supervision.

"The attitude in New Zealand is ... 'she'll be right' and 'children need to take risks and learn from experience'."

However, recent research showed repeated "little taps to the head" from a fall in the playground, or playing contact sport such as rugby, could lead to brain injuries later in life, she said.

"Children's heads are more fragile at that age and we do need to be a little bit more cautious about trying to reduce these horrific fall statistics.

"We want to encourage active [parental] supervision - it's not sitting on the bench to the side reading the newspaper or having a coffee and chatting.

"It's actually being there next to your child or within reach and watching what they're doing." APNZ

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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