Metro school's research shows alarming playground safety results - KCTV5

Metro school's research shows some alarming playground safety results

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We've all let our children run loose on those park playgrounds, but some recent news is making parents rethink that.

Researchers at a Kansas City metro medical school have revealed that jungle gyms aren't as safe as they seem and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is taking notice. The CDC is awarding the school the 2013 Award of Excellence in Safety Research for Injury Prevention and Control and Active Living Research for their study on neighborhood playground equipment safety.

The CDC reports more than 200,000 children are injured on America's playgrounds each year, and playgrounds are built according to national safety standards. They can't be more than  seven feet tall to help prevent serious injury if a child should fall. Also, the space between bars must be small enough so that a child can't get his or her head stuck between the bars.

Playgrounds normally start off safe, but normal wear and tear is how they become dangerous.

Researchers at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences looked at 41 metro playgrounds for their study to grade the equipment.

Montgall Park, located at 22nd Street and Walrond Avenue in Kansas City, MO, might seem like a fun place to play, but it was rated the worst playground in the city.

"Once that (the rubber flooring that is coming up) spreads out farther and a kid busts his head right there, that's not going to be good," said KCUMB student Terry Presley.

Presley spent every day last summer inspecting 41 city parks for his school research project. He used a National Program for Playground Safety or NPPS checklist to rate the playgrounds, looking for poor equipment upkeep like rusty nails and exposed bolts.

"So this would be a trouble spot. There's some rust here," he said as he pointed out some exposed connectors.

Another concern Presley looked at was safety railing.

"This just doesn't look very sturdy. This wouldn't qualify as appropriate hand railing either. Appropriate handling is something that came from the manufacturer and this did not, so it would have to get a 'no' for appropriate hand railing," he said.

The biggest hazard was the ground surfacing which is installed to protect a child if he or she falls - not to cause them. At the Montgall Park playground, the ground surfacing is split in some places and in others, uprooted nails are visible.

"You have the hard surface here that's not covered up. I think this is supposed to go all the way around the edge," Presley said.

He gave the jungle gym an F, which the NPPS considers life-threatening.

Even though the Montgall Park playground got an F, it was the only one in the city that received that rating. Seventeen percent, or seven of the 41, got Cs, meaning that they are potentially hazardous. The rest are considered safe.

Fall surface and age-appropriate design were the biggest factors in deciding what grade a playground deserved, along with equipment maintenance. Researchers said children are more likely to be active and at a healthy weight if they have access to a safe playground.

"As everybody knows, childhood obesity is such a huge problem and we want kids to be as safe as possible when being physically active," said Carleen Mayfield, a faculty instructor for student research at KCUMB.

Presley and his school hope their research encourages the community to invest in improvements, so kids won't get hurt having fun and staying healthy.

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