Frequency of Crib-Related Injuries Cause for Concern, Study Finds

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crib injuries

Although safety standards continue to improve, crib injuries occur at alarming rates. Credit: Getty

Cribs, playpens and bassinets are supposed to function as secure locations where parents can place their baby or toddler and be confident that their child is safe and protected even when unattended.

Yet, between 1990 and 2008, an estimated 181,654 children younger than 2 years were treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to cribs, playpens and bassinets -- an average of 26 injuries per day in the United States, according to a study published online today in the journal Pediatrics.

Although the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) began releasing safety standards for cribs as early as 1973, poor design, product defects, faulty setup and improper use have led to scores of deaths, entrapments and other injuries to young children. In fact, more than 9 million cribs have been recalled by the CPSC since Sept. 2007 because of safety issues, the researchers note.

Despite efforts by the CPSC to tighten and refine safety standards, crib-related injuries accounted for more than 14,500 injuries to children younger than 5 years of age in 2009, and they were associated with the majority of nursery product deaths, according to the study.

Previous studies have looked at infant deaths resulting from suffocation and strangulation in cribs and adult beds; injuries attributed to bumper pads; deaths attributed to hanging, wedging and suffocation from positional asphyxia; and other causes.

However, nonfatal injuries associated with cribs have largely been overlooked in research, even though they occur far more frequently than actual fatalities, and they can result in serious injury. This new research is the first nationally representative study to examine the incidence of injuries. The data was culled from the CPSC's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System over a 19-year period, from 1990 to 2008.

While researchers note that there was a decrease in injury rates from 1990 to 2008, there were still a number of key findings:

  • Most of the injuries involved cribs (83.2 percent), followed by playpens (12.6 percent) and bassinets (4.2 percent).
  • Falling from a crib, playpen or bassinet was the most common method of injury (66.2 percent), followed by being struck by or against a crib (14.7 percent).
  • The head or neck was the most frequently-injured body region (40.3 percent), followed by the face (27.5 percent).
  • Soft-tissue injury was the most common diagnosis (34.1 percent), followed by concussion or closed head injury (21.1 percent). Concussions were more likely to occur with falls from a crib, playpen or bassinet, while lacerations were more likely to occur when children hit, cut or fell inside a crib.
  • The injury involved a sibling or another child in 3.4 percent of cases and a parent or adult caretaker in 2.1 percent of cases.
  • Infants, ages 6 to 11 months, comprised the largest group of injured children (34.6 percent of cases), followed by children 12 to 17 months (33.4 percent).
  • Boys accounted for 56.1 percent of reported cases of injury.

  • Given the volume of crib, playpen and bassinet injuries over the study period, the authors note that current prevention strategies are clearly insufficient and call for greater efforts to minimize hazards associated with these nursery products.

    "Crib, playpen, and bassinet safety standards must continue to be strengthened and rigorously enforced to protect young children from harm. Health care professionals, child care providers, parents and other child caregivers also should be cognizant of the recommendations for proper use of these products," the authors conclude.

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    AdviceMama Says:
    Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.