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Christoph Buck, Anca Bolbos, and Sven Schneider

especially ethically relevant. Playgrounds represent an important resource for minors’ outdoor physical activity, as they are much more suited than green spaces to encourage physical and social activity among children. 1 Playgrounds are open 24 hours a day and are easily accessible year-round; they are free

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Richard Suminski, Terry Presley, Jason A. Wasserman, Carlene A. Mayfield, Elizabeth McClain, and Mariah Johnson

Background:

More than 200,000 children each year are treated at emergency departments for injuries occurring on playgrounds. Empirically derived data are needed to elucidate factors associated with playground safety and reduce injury rates.

Objective:

Determine if neighborhood, park and playground characteristics are significantly associated with playground safety.

Methods:

A 24-item report card developed by the National Program for Playground Safety was used to assess playground safety at 41 public parks in a small to midsized, Midwestern city. Trained assessors evaluated the parks and playgrounds in June/July and used a standardized method to count the numbers of users. Data from the 2010 U.S. Census were used to describe the neighborhoods surrounding the parks.

Results:

The average safety score for all playgrounds was 77.4% which denotes acceptable safety levels. However, 17.1% of the playgrounds were potentially hazardous and in need of corrective measures. Playgrounds were safer in neighborhoods with more youth (< 18 years of age) and educated adults and in parks with better quality features. Playgrounds with fewer amenities were relatively less safe.

Conclusions:

Park safety levels need to be improved to reduce the risk of physical injuries. Future studies examining cause-effect associations between environmental features and playground safety are warranted.

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Auke A. Post, Gert de Groot, Andreas Daffertshofer, and Peter J. Beek

In mechanical studies of pumping a playground swing, two methods of energy insertion have been identified: parametric pumping and driven oscillation. While parametric pumping involves the systematic raising and lowering of the swinger’s center of mass (CM) along the swing’s radial axis (rope), driven oscillation may be conceived as rotation of the CM around a pivot point at a fixed distance to the point of suspension. We examined the relative contributions of those two methods of energy insertion by inviting 18 participants to pump a swing from standstill and by measuring and analyzing the swing-swinger system (defined by eight markers) in the sagittal plane. Overall, driven oscillation was found to play a major role and parametric pumping a subordinate role, although the relative contribution of driven oscillation decreased as swinging amplitude increased, whereas that of parametric pumping increased slightly. Principal component analysis revealed that the coordination pattern of the swing-swinger system was largely determined (up to 95%) by the swing’s motion, while correlation analysis revealed that (within the remaining 5% of variance) trunk and leg rotations were strongly coupled.

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Jack L. Nasar and Christopher H. Holloman

Background:

The research sought to find the salient perceived characteristics of playgrounds for African-American children and their parents, and to test effects of changes in those characteristics on playground choice.

Methods:

Thirty-one African-American children and their parents sorted 15 photographs of playgrounds for similarity. Nonmetric multidimensional scaling on the similarity scores and correlations between the resulting dimensions and judged characteristics of each playground revealed salient perceived characteristics. Study 2 had 40 African-American children and their parents view pairs of photographs, manipulated on the salient characteristics, and pick the one to play on (child question) or for the child to play on (parent question). A third study inventoried and observed children’s activities in 14 playgrounds.

Results:

Study 1 found seats, fence, playground type, and softness of surface as salient perceived characteristics of the playground. Study 2 found that participants were more likely to pick playgrounds with equipment and playgrounds with a softer surface. Study 3 found higher levels of physical activity for playground settings with equipment.

Conclusions:

The findings confirm correlational findings on the desirability of equipment and safety. Communities need to test the effects of changes in playgrounds.

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Peter L. Davidson, Suzanne J. Wilson, David J. Chalmers, Barry D. Wilson, David Eager, and Andrew S. McIntosh

The amount of energy dissipated away from or returned to a child falling onto a surface will influence fracture risk but is not considered in current standards for playground impact-attenuating surfaces. A two-mass rheological computer simulation was used to model energy flow within the wrist and surface during hand impact with playground surfaces, and the potential of this approach to provide insights into such impacts and predict injury risk examined. Acceleration data collected on-site from typical playground surfaces and previously obtained data from children performing an exercise involving freefalling with a fully extended arm provided input. The model identified differences in energy flow properties between playground surfaces and two potentially harmful surface characteristics: more energy was absorbed by (work done on) the wrist during both impact and rebound on rubber surfaces than on bark, and rubber surfaces started to rebound (return energy to the wrist) while the upper limb was still moving downward. Energy flow analysis thus provides information on playground surface characteristics and the impact process, and has the potential to identify fracture risks, inform the development of safer impact-attenuating surfaces, and contribute to development of new energy-based arm fracture injury criteria and tests for use in conjunction with current methods.

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Gareth Stratton and Janine Leonard

The energy expenditure of 47 children aged 5–7 years was assessed before and after a school playground was painted with fluorescent markings. Physical activity was measured using heart rate monitors and energy expenditure calculated for 3 playtimes per child before and after the playground was painted. Total energy expenditure and the rate of energy expenditure increased significantly, as did the duration of play. The effect of painting the playground on total energy expenditure was analysed using an ANCOVA to control for play duration and body mass. Results revealed a 35% increase in total energy expenditure (P £ .01) and a 6% increase in the rate of energy expenditure (P £ .01). The significant interaction between time (before and after) and group (experimental and control) (P £ .02) demonstrated that the intervention programme significantly increased heart rates. These results suggest that playground markings and duration of play can have a significant and positive influence on young children’s energy expenditure.

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Glen Nielsen, Rachael Taylor, Sheila Williams, and Jim Mann

Background:

To investigate whether the number of permanent playground facilities in schools influences objectively measured physical activity.

Methods:

Physical activity was measured using Actical accelerometers over 2 to 5 days in 417 children (5–12 years) from 7 schools. The number of permanent play facilities likely to encourage physical activity in individuals or groups of children (eg, adventure playgrounds, swings, trees, playground markings, courts, sandpits) were counted on 2 occasions in each school. The surface area of each playground (m2) was also measured.

Results:

The number of permanent play facilities in schools ranged from 14 to 35 and was positively associated with all measures of activity. For each additional play facility, average accelerometry counts were 3.8% (P < .001) higher at school and 2.7% (P < .001) higher overall. Each additional play facility was also associated with 2.3% (P = .001) or 4 minutes more moderate/vigorous activity during school hours and 3.4% (P < .001) more (9 minutes) over the course of the day. School playground area did not affect activity independent of the number of permanent play facilities. Findings were consistent across age and sex groups.

Conclusion:

Increasing the number of permanent play facilities at schools may offer a cost-effective and sustainable option for increasing physical activity in young children.

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Woochol J. Choi, Harjinder Kaur, and Stephen N. Robinovitch

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.

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Brian E. Saelens, Lawrence D. Frank, Christopher Auffrey, Robert C. Whitaker, Hillary L. Burdette, and Natalie Colabianchi

Background:

Reliable and comprehensive measurement of physical activity settings is needed to examine environment-behavior relations.

Methods:

Surveyed park professionals (n = 34) and users (n = 29) identified park and playground elements (e.g., trail) and qualities (e.g., condition). Responses guided observational instrument development for environmental assessment of public recreation spaces (EAPRS). Item inter-rater reliability was evaluated following observations in 92 parks and playgrounds. Instrument revision and further reliability testing were conducted with observations in 21 parks and 20 playgrounds.

Results:

EAPRS evaluates trail/path, specific use (e.g., picnic), water-related, amenity (e.g., benches), and play elements, and their qualities. Most EAPRS items had good-excellent reliability, particularly presence/number items. Reliability improved from the original (n = 1088 items) to revised (n = 646 items) instrument for condition, coverage/shade, and openness/visibility items. Reliability was especially good for play features, but cleanliness items were generally unreliable.

Conclusions:

The EAPRS instrument provides comprehensive assessment of parks’ and playgrounds’ physical environment, with generally high reliability.

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Anne-Maree Parrish, Don Iverson, Ken Russell, and Heather Yeatman

Background:

Declining levels of children’s physical activity may contribute to Australia’s increasing childhood obesity epidemic. School recess is an underutilized opportunity to increase children’s physical activity.1

Methods:

Thirteen regional Australian public primary schools participated in the study (2946 children). The Children’s Activity Scanning Tool 2 (CAST2) collected observational playground physical activity data. The research also addressed: length of break, socioeconomic status (SES), gender, number of scanning days, and instrument calibration.

Results:

The proportions of Moderate or Vigorous Physically Activity (MVPA) children at the observed schools ranged from 0.4 to 0.7. The odds ratio of boys being MVPA relative to girls ranged from 0.8581 to 2.137. There were significant differences between the mean proportions of 3 days of activity (range P = .001 to P = .015) and no association between SES school groupings (deviance ratio: 0.48; P = .503). Interrater reliability for instrument calibration using Spearman correlations coefficients ranged from r = .71 to r = .99.

Conclusions:

There were significant differences between proportions of MVPA children at the 13 schools and between male and female populations. There was no association between playground physical activity and SES. The monitoring period for CAST2 should be at least 3 days. Interrater reliability indicates that correlations between observers were consistently high.