Hundreds of children injured in accidents

By Lydia Anderson

Wanganui's Kowhai Park playground. Photo/File
Wanganui's Kowhai Park playground. Photo/File

More than 100 Wanganui kids are being injured at playgrounds every year, sparking warnings to parents to watch over their children.

More than 700 Wanganui playground injury claims were lodged with ACC since 2008, costing taxpayers $216,795 in rehabilitation costs.

Wanganui girls suffer more injuries than boys, 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.

Wanganui District Council property manager Rowan McGregor said Wanganui 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.

Monthly checks were done on playgrounds or public spaces and repairs were done if needed.

The council had an accident register for public playground accidents, he said.

"We rely on the public to tell us if there has been an accident. We will then investigate and take action as required."

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.

Serious falls causing broken bones or internal injuries could also result in long-term consequences and limit the chances of playing sport later in life.

"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 off 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.

"I don't think it's acceptable for that number of children to be hospitalised."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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