An important and fun place to increase physical activity within the school day is on the playground.
Playgrounds allow children to explore, learn and grow. From developing shoulder girdle strength by crossing the monkey bars alone to expanding their imagination in the sand box digging and designing castles and moats, the playground is an excellent place for children to learn and grow.
But there are potential dangers hidden within this exploratory paradise. Many children love the feeling they get when surging feet first down a slide. New parents may be fearful to let their toddler attempt the slide solo. Frequently, parents think their child is safer riding down the slide sitting on a parent’s lap. However, this very often results in a trip to the emergency room. Parents- don’t make this mistake! When a toddler sits on top of your lap as you ride down, their foot can get caught between your leg and the edge of the slide resulting in a broken leg. Toddlers tend to break their bones more than they sprain an ankle on the slide due to the added weight of the adult and momentum created by the adult, pressing on the child’s leg when the foot gets stuck along the side of the slide.
A research article by Jennissen, et al published in 2018 conducted a retrospective study through data downloaded from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission National Electronic Injury Surveillance system database. This database was used to compile information from 2002-2015 from about 100 Emergency Departments nationwide. There were 12,686 cases of slide related injuries pulled from the database by children < 5 years old. Of the injuries that occurred, 36% were fractures. When they delved deeper, they found that 5% of the cases injured going down the slide were when a rider was on another person’s lap. Of these preschool age children, the data showed that children less than 3 years old were 16 times more likely to have a lower leg/ankle fracture than all other fractures, as compared to older preschool kids.1
It’s better to allow children to ride alone with close supervision and instructions on how to ride down safely. The family will enjoy the playground a whole lot more without a trip to the emergency room and a leg in a cast. Staying active and eating right, while having fun, is the best way to stay healthy this spring season.
- Jennissen C, Koos M, Denning G. Playground slide-related injuries in preschool children: increased rise of lower extremity injuries when riding on laps. Inj Epidemiol. 2018 Apr; 5(Suppl 1): 13.
Updated on March 17, 2020
Corinne Slevin is a doctor of physical therapy and Clinical Lead at the CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center within Hospital for Special Surgery’s Lerner Children’s Pavilion. She is a board certified Pediatric Specialist by the American Physical Therapy Association and is also certified with the Neuro-Developmental Treatment Association.