Parents Surprised by Playground Slide Risk to Toddlers

Good parents concerned with their children’s safety on the playground are shocked when their toddlers break a leg. The parents are devastated when they discover that they caused the injury.

According to an article in The New York Times, broken legs are a “common” injury among toddlers who ride down slides (especially spiral slides) on their parents’ laps. What happens is that a child’s sneaker gets caught on the side of the slide, and the gravitational weight of the parent pushes the leg past the breaking point.

This may be one of those counterintuitive cases when a child is safer by himself. If a foot gets caught while the child is sliding alone, he can just stop moving or twist around until it comes free. But when a child is sitting in an adult lap, the force of the adult’s weight behind him ends up breaking his leg.

The injury is surprising enough, but parents are shocked when they find out that hospitals consider this type of injury common…and yet the parents never heard of the risk. A study at a single New York hospital found that in an 11-month period, nearly 14% of pediatric leg fractures involved toddlers riding down a slide with a parent.

According to the article, this is how easily the fracture can happen:

Andy Dworkin, a former journalist who is now a medical student in Portland, Ore., said his son Felix, then 18 months, was playing with a toddler friend at an elementary school where they were drawn to a blue slide. Felix rode down first, on the lap of his mother, but his rubber-soled shoe caught on the slide and he started to scream when he got off the slide.

Another mother, at the top of the slide with her own 17-month-old, quickly slid down with her son to try to help. But soon that little boy was crying as well. At the emergency room, both boys were found to have fractures, and they were fitted with orange and blue casts.


Sliding Board Fracture Prevention with Dr. Ed Holt

Experts suggest that the best way to prevent slide-induced broken legs in toddlers is to allow children to slide by themselves. Of course, the children should be given instructions and be supervised. For very young children, place them on the slide at the halfway point, with the adult at the side of the slide.

If you must ride down the slide with your child, remove his or her shoes and make sure that the child’s legs don’t touch the sides or sliding surface.

Dr. Edward Holt, an orthopedic surgeon at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, says that the fracture is entirely preventable. He has created a warning poster for pediatrician offices, and a YouTube video for parents.

“I’m not saying we need to make the entire world out of rubber and insulate kids,” [Dr. Holt] said. “But this is something that is so totally predictable and preventable. That’s why I want to get the word out this one could go away.”

To read the full article in The New York Times, click here:  Surprising Risk for Toddlers

You can also see the YouTube video here:  Sliding Board Fracture Prevention

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