The 5 Most Common Injuries at Parks (And How to Prevent Them)

On any given day, parks and recreation positively affects someone, but there’s always a risk for injuries at parks.

Parks build communities. They offer a place for people all backgrounds to enrich their lives with recreational activities that promote health and wellness.

Whether you manage an intricate network of parks, buildings, and trails or just one public park, your job as a member of the parks and recreation team is to ensure the public has the ability to participate safely in activities. Unfortunately, injuries are a constant threat. Most seasoned professionals know that anything from a basketball game to a simple walk on a trail can result in a guest injury.

How do you keep these injuries from happening? While some people are just clumsy, other injuries can be prevented or minimized with preparedness steps. In our 2018 State of Parks and Recreation survey, we asked respondents to identify their top five reasons for injuries at parks. Keep reading to find out what those reasons are and how you can prevent them at your facility.

And while you’re at it, download a free copy of our 2018 Parks and Recreation Report to see the other key insights we gathered from your colleagues.

Learn more

1. Sports-Related Injuries

The most common ways visitors are injured at parks is through sports-related activity. Nearly 60% of respondents marked sports as the number one cause of injuries at their parks and recreation facilities.


Sports-related injuries can happen in a number of ways. When you first think of a sport-related injury, you probably think of a sprained ankle or a scrape. These types of injuries due to sports happen all the time. The best ways to prevent injuries that come from rough play are to ensure that any referees in any leagues that play at your park keep their games under control.

Another way you can avoid these injuries is to ensure that your recreation areas are up-to-date and safe. For example, it’s harder to sprain your ankle on a nice, paved basketball court than an uneven, torn up basketball court. Similarly, it’s harder to pull a muscle on a dry, manicured soccer field rather than a wet, muddy one.

One last way you can avoid these types of injuries at your park is by ensuring those participating in sports have the right equipment. For example, soccer players should have shin guards, basketball players should have high-top sneakers, and those working out in fitness areas should be lifting to their ability. You can try to do this by using signs or announcements, or you can offer a training class.


This isn’t the only type of sports injury though. Injuries at parks also happen when people participate in sports during days with a high heat index. There are two main concerns for exercising in the heat: Dehydrating and heat illness.

Dehydration occurs when our bodies are losing more fluids than we’re taking in. This happens quickly on hot days when people are exercising. You can help your park-goers prevent dehydration by reminding them to drink more water.

You can also offer classes and posted information on the warning signs of dehydration. If you guests have any of these symptoms, they should stop physical activity immediately, find a cool spot, and drink water or a sports drink.

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Thirst
  • Feeling Less Alert
  • Muscle cramps
  • Decreased urine output
  • Urine that is dark


Heat illness is the second problem. Heat illness occurs when the body’s cooling systems are overworked. Illnesses range from heat exhaustion to heat stroke. Here are the warning signs of heat exhaustion. When someone experiences these symptoms at your park, they should seek medical treatment, drink cold fluids, and cool the body with ice or a damp cloth.

  • Heavy sweating
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Goose bumps
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Incoordination (staggering, weaving, etc.)
  • Weak and rapid pulse


While heat exhaustion isn’t exactly life threatening, it can lead to heat stroke which is life-threatening. Heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer cool itself and the core body temperature reaches very high levels. If left untreated, this can cause permanent damage to major organs and possible even death. It require immediate care and rapid cooling. These are the symptoms to look out for with guests at your park:

  • Bizarre behavior
  • Significant confusion
  • Lack of consciousness
  • A strong and fast pulse
  • Red skin
  • Either heavy sweating or cessation of sweating
  • A temperature greater than 104 degrees


The best way to prevent both of these is to have a weather station at your parks and recreation facility and to use it to send out heat advisories and warnings.

2. Personal Health Problems

While most people at your park and there to better themselves and have a good time, some folks have personal health problems that can flare up while at your facility. Issues like heart attacks, diabetes, and asthma are some common personal health problems that cause injuries at parks.

People with heart and breathing problems often bring on heart and asthma attacks by pushing themselves too hard. One respondent explained that folks get hurt at their park when they “don’t use their own heads,” and “do things beyond their abilities.” We agree. The problem is, how do you as an employee prevent this from happening?

We have a few recommendations for stopping these injuries at parks. Firstly, we recommend placing warning signs near areas where this overexertion tends to occur. This includes fitness areas, particularly long or arduous trails, and basketball courts and sports fields. These signs should warn participants of the risks of participating in activities beyond their fitness level. You can also list conditions that would increase their risks, including heart disease, asthma, pregnancy, etc.

Another recommendation we have is to make sure you have first aid kits and AEDs spread out strategically at your facility. Your staff should also be trained in first aid and CPR in case things turn for the worst.

Another step you can take is to help people prepare. Warming up before activity and cooling down afterwards can greatly decrease the risk of personal health problem injuries. Offer stretching instructions or classes.  You can even create an area designated for these activities. Also remind guests to wear heart rate monitors, bring inhalers, and listen to any other doctor instructions before coming to your park.

3. Injuries From Uneven Walking Surfaces 

Let’s face it: Not everyone who enters your park is fit enough to walk on your trails. Uneven walking surfaces can cause a big problem for the young, the elderly, and even the most fit athletes. These injuries may seem insignificant to you, but over 12% of respondents marked them as a common problem at their parks.

The best way to reduce these types of injuries is to ensure your pathways, parking lots, sidewalks, and trails are smooth and safe. Winter weather is the main culprit behind cracked or uneven surfaces. Make sure you assess all of your pathways after the winter to see what needs repairing. That should help reduce injuries!

4. Injuries From Faulty Equipment


The fourth most common way people hurt themselves at parks is with faulty equipment. We know you have a lot on your plate, but you must make sure that your facilities are safe for guests.

From playgrounds to bathrooms, your park must be in tip-top shape to keep all of your guests safe no matter the season. Routine checks of equipment should help. You can also pay close attention to equipment recalls and new information regarding safety best practices. Use the internet to your advantage!

5. Severe Weather-Related Injuries

Injuries at parks also happen due to severe weather.  There are many ways weather conditions can negatively affect your guests’ well being.

The first and most direct threat is lightning. Did you know that lightning kills an average of 47 people per year in the United States alone? On top of that, lightning injures hundreds more. Those participating in leisure activities outdoors are most at risk. That normally includes people at parks and other recreational facilities.

You can prevent lightning-related injuries and deaths at your facility with alerts based on total lightning networks and detection tools. Total lightning detection is the industry best practice when it comes to severe thunderstorm warnings. This is because total lightning includes all lightning strikes, not just the cloud-to-ground ones. It’s also because detection is scientific whereas lightning prediction results in missed and false alarms.

Other severe weather conditions that endanger your guests include major events like hurricanes, flash floods, and tornadoes. You should use a commercial-grade weather monitoring and alerting system to ensure that all guests and staff are safe.

Any Other Injury Threats?

Can you think of any injuries that happened at your facility that don’t fit into a category on this list? Let us know about them in the comments below so you can help your colleagues prepare for the worst to ensure the best.