There are many hazards facing children on a playground, but strangulation remains one of the most terrifying. If something becomes wrapped around a child’s neck or lodged in his throat, he can suffer asphyxiation (lack of oxygen) in under a minute. Unfortunately, children suffer countless asphyxiation injuries on playgrounds each year, many of which will have severe—or even fatal—consequences.
How Asphyxiation Injuries Happen on Playgrounds
Children may have their breathing interrupted by an obstruction in the airway, or because something becomes entangled around their necks and they cannot break free. In nearly all cases where a child is unable to breathe, the person responsible for his or her safety could have done something to prevent the accident before it happened.
Asphyxiation may occur on a playground for many different reasons, including:
- Improper clothing. Clothing entanglement is a major cause of strangulation injuries, particularly on slides. A child caught by the neck at the top of a slide may be unable to fight the force of gravity, requiring immediate help to avoid serious injury. Playground supervisors should ensure that children are dressed appropriately for the playground. Coats should be closed, and hoods must be secured or removed. Jewelry, scarves, and clothing with drawstrings are particular dangers, and they should be removed before children enter the play area.
- Protrusion hazards. Even when children are outfitted properly, an exposed nail, hook, bolt, or vertical post may catch their clothing and lead to strangulation. Open “S” hooks, such as those used on swings, can also entangle a child’s hair or loose clothing. Supervisors have a responsibility to inspect playground equipment regularly and report any defects to the school or park owners.
- Improper use of facilities. Young children may become entangled in toys intended for older children, such as jump ropes, swings, or climbing ropes. Older children may deliberately misuse equipment and play times, performing dangerous dares such as chokeholds on one another. Supervisors should ensure that there are separate play areas for children of different ages and watch carefully for signs of inappropriate play.
- Gaps in equipment. Small gaps between steps, bridges, fences, or different levels of a play structure may entrap a child's head if he or she attempts to squeeze through the opening. These injuries are typically caused by improper design or construction of play equipment.
- Choking. Younger children are more likely to place objects in their mouths, such as small stones, toy parts, or playground surface material. It is vital that children are actively supervised while they play, and that children are discouraged from eating during playtime.
- Drowning. Ponds, fountains, puddles, or other standing water may be attractive play areas to children, but all pose a significant risk of drowning. All open water sources should be cordoned off to prevent children from accessing them, and play should be redirected to a safe distance away from the location.
Potential Effects of a Child’s Asphyxiation Injury
An injury sustained in childhood can have effects that last for the rest of a victim’s life, robbing the family of his or her future potential. An experienced injury attorney can determine the amount of damages you may be owed for your child’s medical bills, disfigurement, rehabilitation, future lost income, and other losses.
While every case is different, strangulation has been known to result in:
- Hypoxia. Children can suffer a severe brain injury due to a lack of oxygen, resulting in behavioral changes, seizures, hallucinations, vision or hearing problems, and impaired mental development.
- Difficulty speaking. Increased pressure on the throat may cause a fractured voice box (larynx), resulting in a hoarse or raspy voice or an inability to speak at all.
- Breathing problems. Victims often have difficulty breathing after strangulation due to swelling of the airways, resulting in coughing, problems swallowing, excessive drooling, or vomiting.
- Wrongful death. The majority of fatal injuries on playgrounds are caused by asphyxiation.
If your child was injured on a playground in Tennessee, our attorneys can listen to your story and determine who may be held liable. Our lawyers provide injury clients with a free initial consultation and represent their interests on a contingent fee basis, meaning we do not collect anything unless we secure a recovery for you. To learn more about your claim, download a free copy of our book, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.