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Pediatrics. 1999 May;103(5):e58.

Monkeybar injuries: complications of play.

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  • 1Children's Hospital, Boston, Division of Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston MA 02115, USA.



Playground equipment resulted in >200 000 injuries from 1990 to 1994, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission; 88% were attributable to climbers (monkeybars/jungle gyms [MB/JGs]), swings, and slides. Equipment-specific injury requiring emergency department (ED) evaluation has not been reported previously.


To describe the spectrum of significant MB/JG-related injuries.


A 2-year retrospective chart review was performed using the computerized charting system at a large urban Children's Hospital/Regional Pediatric Trauma Center with 50 000 ED visits per year. A telephone survey also was conducted after the chart review to obtain additional information concerning the injury location, the surface type below the equipment, and the presence of adult supervision.


A total of 204 patients were identified. Mean age was 6.2 years (range, 20 months to 12 years); 114 (56%) were male. A seasonal variation was noted with June to August accounting for 43% of visits. Injuries included fractures in 124 (61%), contusions in 20 (10%), neck and back strains in 17 (8%), lacerations in 16 (8%), closed head injuries in 10 (5%), abdominal trauma in 5 (3%), genitourinary injuries in 5 (3%), and miscellaneous injuries in the remainder. Among fractures, 90% were fractures of the upper extremity; 48 (40%) were supracondylar fractures. One child sustained a C7 compression fracture. Abdominal injuries included 1 child who sustained a splenic laceration. All genitourinary injuries (2 vaginal hematomas, 1 vaginal contusion, 1 penile laceration, and 1 urethral injury) were from straddle-type injuries. Fifty-one (25%) patients were admitted to the hospital. Of these, 47 (92%) required an operative procedure (orthopedic reduction or vaginal examination under anesthesia). Analysis of the telephone data revealed that the surface did not influence the injury type. Of the 79 fractures, 30 occurred on "soft surfaces." Injury type was associated significantly with chronologic age. Younger children (1 to 4 years of age) sustained more long-bone fractures than did older children. The presence of adult (at least 18 years of age) supervision, did not influence the occurrence of fractures.


These data suggest that 1) a significant proportion (25%) of MB/JG-related injuries that are evaluated in the ED require hospitalization; 2) most of the injuries resulting in admission will require operative intervention (92%); 3) the surface below the equipment has no influence on the type or severity of the injury; 4) younger children are more likely to sustain long-bone fractures than are older children; and 5) adult supervision does not influence the injury pattern. These data identify the need for additional investigation of means of making MB/JGs safer for child use.

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