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Testing the impact attenuation of loose-fill playground surfaces
  1. Mick G Mack1,
  2. Jeffrey J Sacks2,
  3. Donna Thompson1
  1. 1National Program for Playground Safety, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa
  2. 2Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, US Department of Health and Human Services, US Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Mick G Mack, National Program for Playground Safety, University of Northern Iowa-WRC 203, Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614-0618, USA
 (e-mail: playground-safety{at}


Objectives—Our objective was to measure the impact attenuation performance of five types of loose-fill playground surfaces at a variety of drop heights, material depths, and conditions.

Methods—In a laboratory setting, an instrumented head form was dropped on varying depths of loose-fill materials at one foot height increments until critical deceleration values were exceeded. The effects of test box size, material temperature, and compression were also studied.

Results—Data suggest that a larger test box size influences test results. Uncompressed materials performed quite unexpectedly, that is, resilience did not necessarily increase with increasing depth of material and temperature did not have uniform effects. Compression before testing improved consistency of results.

Conclusion—The current standard test procedure (ASTM F1292) appears problematic for loose-fill materials. Our results indicate that (1) shredded rubber was the best performer; (2) there was little difference between sand, wood fibers, and wood chips; and (3) pea gravel had the worst performance, making it a poor choice for playground surfacing.

  • playgrounds
  • impact attenuation
  • surfacing

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