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Don't Hold a Toddler While Going Down a Playground Slide

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Physical Therapy in Cleburne for Pediatric

Young children should not go down a playground slide while sitting on another person's lap. This was the conclusion of a study looking at playground injuries. In particular, one pediatric surgeon reviewed the records of 58 children who sustained a tibialfracture over an 11-month period of time. The tibia is the larger of the two bones in the lower leg. Eight of those fractures occurred while going down the slide on the lap of an adult (usually the parent).

Imagine how upset and frustrated the parents were when they thought they were protecting their child only to have them break a leg in the process. How is it possible for a toddler to fracture the lower leg while sitting on an adult's lap? Any sudden movement of the young child can result in the child's foot getting stuck under the adult, twisted, or held flat against the surface of the slide. The continued forward movement of the adult with the child puts enough pressure and load on the lower leg to cause the bone to give.

In this study, all of the children were under the age of three years old. They all had a simple break of the shaft of the tibia that could be treated with a leg cast. The fibula (smaller bone in the lower leg) was not broken. And the tibial fracture was nondisplaced (not separated). Everyone healed well and resumed walking with the cast on within a week's time.

X-rays were needed to confirm the diagnosis because with a nondisplaced fracture, the leg doesn't look broken. There are no bones protruding against the skin or poking out through the skin. Sometimes the parent can hear a cracking or popping sound when the break happens. But in all cases, the child develops sudden pain and can no longer put weight on that side. Swelling is also a common reaction to the fracture.

Even though most of today's playgrounds have been designed with safety in mind, there are some things that can't be designed away. One of those is playground equipment like the slide that requires a certain size and level of developmental skill. If the child cannot sit up alone with enough strength and balance to move forward down a slide, then the child should be restricted from the slide. The child must be able to safely climb the ladder, sit down at the top of the slide, and make it to the bottom without difficulty before being allowed to do the slide alone.

Attention can be focused on other, developmentally appropriate equipment. Children may put up a fuss and even stage a glorious temper tantrum. But the parent is still the parent and safety should be their first concern. As a result of this study doctors are urged to tell parents not to hold a toddler on the lap while going down the slide. It may seem like you have everything under control until that wiggling bundle of toddler energy suddenly shifts position. It all happens so fast, the parent or adult can't react quickly enough to avert disaster.

Unexpected injuries can happen on any playground. Knowing a few key risk factors such as the one presented in this article can guide parent action and help prevent childhood playground injuries. Avoiding the slide and playing on other age-appropriate equipment until the child is developmentally ready will create a safer environment while still providing fun for the child.

Reference: John T. Gaffney, DO. Tibia Fractures in Children Sustained on a Playground Slide. In Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics. September 2009. Vol. 29. No. 6. Pp. 606-608.

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