New study finds schoolyard play causes a large number of injuries

Many childhood injuries happen in the schoolyard, a collaborative study between York University and University of Ottawa shows, suggesting that schools should consider increasing adult supervision.

The study analyzed childhood injury statistics from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and six other Ottawa-area emergency departments or clinics. It found that 4,287 Ottawa-area children were injured at school in 2002, representing 18 per cent of all children injured. Most often, these schoolyard injuries occurred while the children were taking part in informal sports, or playing.

"Children between the ages of 10 and 14 are the most frequently injured, which means that programs directed toward preventing injuries at school should be designed largely for elementary schools," says senior author Alison Macpherson, a professor of kinesiology & health science at York.

Right: Most childhood injuries happen in the schoolyard

"Given the increase in childhood obesity, we need to keep kids active, but the largest proportion of injuries occur when kids are just playing," says Macpherson. "Earlier research has shown that installing safety-conscious playground equipment substantially decreases the rate of injury, and those improvements are being made. But we should also consider increasing supervision, which research has also shown to be effective."

The study, which was led by York grad Jonathan Josse (MSc ’08) with Macpherson’s supervision, appears in the February 2009 issue of the Journal of School Health, published by the American School Health Association. Physicians in emergency departments and urgent care clinics in the Ottawa area collected data for the community-wide study, which also uses information provided by patients, parents or other guardians through the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP). Dr. Martin Osmond, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Ottawa, and Morag MacKay of the European Child Safety Alliance, are co-authors of the study, which received funding from the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation.

Analysis of the Ottawa statistics shows that fewer injuries sustained at school require hospitalization than injuries at other locations. However, there was a 75 per cent greater chance of incurring a sports injury at school than at other locations, and a 41 per cent greater likelihood of sustaining a head injury. In all age groups, boys were more likely to be injured than girls (60.3 per cent compared to 39.7 per cent) and suffered significantly more head injuries.