Playground safety: What parents need to keep in mind

As the weather warms up, you may be packing up the little ones and heading to the playground more often for some outdoor fun. But it’s important to keep safety top of mind as your kids play.

From 2002 through 2015, there were more than 350,000 playground slide injuries involving children younger than six years old, according to a 2017 University of Iowa study. The study looked at a national database of injuries treated in U.S. emergency rooms.

You might think it’s safer to go down the slide with your child, but it actually puts them at risk for a leg fracture.

“Unfortunately, we see too many of these fractures every year. We don’t see this happening in children who go down the playground slide alone,” says Dr. Edward Holt, an orthopedic surgeon with AAMC Orthopedics.

More than a third of the children in the University of Iowa study broke a bone. Those breaks usually involved the child’s lower leg.  Typically, these injuries occur in children between the ages of 8 months to two years, Dr. Holt says.

“The weight of the parent behind the child twists the child’s leg if his toe touches the sliding board,” Dr. Holt explains.

If you don’t want to let your toddler go down the slide alone, then  make sure the child’s feet don’t touch the slide, Holt says.

“In this case, it’s best to remove the child’s rubber-souled shoes before going down the slide,” he says.

Beyond the playground

Some backyard toys can be every bit as dangerous as those on your neighborhood playground. Trampolines, for example, cause thousands of injuries every year in the U.S. and the American Academy of Pediatrics even warns parents not to buy them.

Dr. Holt says the most common injuries he sees are sprained ankles, wrist and leg fractures, arm and elbow injuries, and head and neck injuries, which tend to be the most serious.

“Before you buy a trampoline, set up rules for the use of it. Then go over those rules with your kids and get their buy-in. You should also look at your homeowners’ insurance and liability policy to make sure that backyard trampolines aren’t excluded from your policy,” he says.

Children under the age of six should not play on an adult-sized trampoline, Dr. Holt adds, though there are child-sized trampolines available for younger kids.

If you do buy a trampoline, Dr. Holt says place a net around the trampoline so children can’t fall off. And make sure the trampoline has a ladder to prevent children from trying to jump off of it.

You should also place the trampoline on a level surface with padding on the springs and frame.

Dr. Holt also urges parents to avoid having the trampoline next to a tree or second-story deck. He says children could run into those things or worse, be tempted to jump off of them onto the trampoline.

Author

Edward Holt, MD is an orthopedic surgeon with AAMC Orthopedics who specializes in foot and ankle problems.

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