Distal radius fractures are common on playgrounds. Yet current guidelines for the selection of playground surface materials are based only on protection against fall-related head injuries. We conducted “torso release” experiments to determine how common playground surface materials affect impact force applied to the hand during upper limb fall arrests. Trials were acquired for falls onto a rigid surface, and onto five common playground surface materials: engineered wood fiber, gravel, mulch, rubber tile, and sand. Measures were acquired for arm angles of 20 and 40 degrees from the vertical. Playground surface materials influenced the peak resultant and vertical force (P < .001), but not the peak horizontal force (P = .159). When compared with the rigid condition, peak resultant force was reduced 17% by sand (from 1039 to 864 N), 16% by gravel, 7% by mulch, 5% by engineered wood fiber, and 2% by rubber tile. The best performing surface provided only a 17% reduction in peak resultant force. These results help to explain the lack of convincing evidence from clinical studies on the effectiveness of playground surface materials in preventing distal radius fractures during playground falls, and highlight the need to develop playground surface materials that provide improved protection against these injuries.
Woochol J. Choi and Harjinder Kaur are with the Injury Prevention and Mobility Laboratory, Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada. Stephen N. Robinovitch is with the Injury Prevention and Mobility Laboratory, Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology, Simon Fraser University, and with the School of Engineering Science, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada. Address author correspondence to Woochol J. Choi at email@example.com.