December 2000 Bulletin

AAOS plans 2nd safe, accessible playground

Orthopaedists, industry, community volunteers to pitch in at Annual Meeting

By Carolyn Rogers

Safe and accessible playgrounds provide a haven for children to play with friends, keep fit and healthy and develop social skills. But for many children, their ‘playgrounds’ are garbage-strewn lots. Even when playgrounds are available, hidden dangers may include inadequate surfacing, jagged equipment edges that can tear skin, or simply poorly maintained equipment.

As a result, more than 200,000 American children are sent to emergency rooms each year with serious injuries sustained from playground falls and other accidents. Handicapped children are often left on the sidelines entirely, as truly ‘accessible’ playgrounds are a rarity.

In response, the Academy has made a Bone and Joint Decade commitment to build safe, accessible playgrounds across the country. The Academy’s second Safe, Accessible Playground project will take place in San Mateo, Calif., just prior to the start of the Annual Meeting in February. The nearly year-long effort will culminate with the building a playground in a single day—Tuesday, February 27—by orthopaedic surgeons and their families, state and specialty orthopaedic societies, orthopaedic industry representatives, media, staff and community volunteers.

The site will be Coyote Point, a large public park in San Mateo County that is visited annually by more than 300,000 adults and children, both with and without disabilities. The Academy will work on the project with the San Mateo County Department of Parks and Recreation, United Cerebral Palsy and KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit organization that works with individuals, organizations, and businesses to build much-needed, safe and accessible playgrounds.

In early November, more than 80 adults and children met at Coyote Point for "Design Day," an event intended to build a sense of excitement among the children and to give the children and their parents a sense of ownership in the project. Invited groups included the Boys and Girls Club, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, children that participate in museum activities at Coyote Point, the local Commission on Disabilities. Students from two schools near the park also attended.

Children shared their ideas about what makes a great playground, and drew individual pictures of their "dream playground." Afterward, the adults were given a more-in-depth overview of the project, and small groups addressed specific aspects of the playground.

Serena Hu, MD, associate professor, department of orthopaedic surgery, University of California, San Francisco, was on hand to represent the Academy. "I talked about playground safety with the kids—mostly 8 to 10 year olds," Dr. Hu says. "I explained to them why, as orthopedic surgeons, we’re interested in keeping them safe. The kids were very excited about the idea of designing a ‘dream’ playground."

The adult session included several parents of handicapped children, Dr. Hu said, who had some very specific suggestions as to what should, and should not, be included in the playground.

"The parents wanted to make sure the group wasn’t just paying lip service to the idea of designing the playground to be accessible to children with disabilities," Dr Hu said. "They wanted to make sure that the playground planner knew that simply installing a ramp, for example, doesn’t make the playground accessible. They talked about ways to make the playground equipment truly accessible, and gave their opinions on different types of disabled-accessible toys."

All of the ideas gathered at Design Day will be taken back to the playground designer to be incorporated into the final design.

Another playground project is planned for June 2001— Bone and Joint Decade Month in Illinois.

The Kansas Orthopaedic Society (KOS) is working with a local architectural firm, an Internet company, Boundless Playgrounds, as well as the Kansas City government and parks and recreation department. Kim Templeton, MD, KOS president, reports that a site has been chosen and an initial planning meeting has taken place, but the plan is on hold until a definite financial commitment can be made by the investors.

The Tennessee Orthopaedic Society (TOS) is working on a playground building effort with a number of groups, and property has been secured from the city of Nashville. According to Paul Biggers, TOS executive director, the society is currently seeking corporate funds to support their portion of the effort.

"We would hope the playground will be built in the Spring of 2001,’ Biggers said.

Thomas Einhorn, MD, and his wife Kyle, are in the very initial planning stages for a playground build in Boston, Mass. The effort will involve the orthopaedic and pediatric residents of Boston University School of Medicine at Boston Medical Center.

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