CLEVELAND – The unofficial start of summer has little ones clamoring to get out to the playground.
While most parents are eager to give their little ones an outlet for all of that pent-up energy, experts warn that one piece of playground equipment can put small children at an increased risk for injuries.
Purva Grover, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s said most parents are surprised to learn that going down a playground slide with a child on their lap can lead to a broken bone.
“When you have a parent, either an adult-sized parent or an older teen, with a child in their lap, what can happen is with the little toddlers, their foot can get entangled on the railings on the side on the way down,” she said. “We usually see the highest rate of injury – typically lower-leg buckle fractures – in children between one to two years old.”
In fact, one study shows that 352,698 children under the age of six were injured on slides in the U.S. from 2002-2015. Most of the injuries were lower-leg fractures.
Researchers noted that if a child was coming down the slide by themselves, even if their foot caught on the side of the slide, they were less likely to be injured. This is because when a child comes down with an adult, the adult’s weight makes the child move faster, raising the risk of injury if the foot gets caught.
Dr. Grover said in order to keep all playground injury risks to a minimum, it’s important to follow the posted age specifications for the equipment.
And while kids will be kids, she said it’s the adult’s responsibility to make sure that little ones are using the playground equipment as it was intended.
“We often see kids playing tag on the playground, but, is that the safest place to play tag? Yes, it’s fun, but is it the safest thing to do when you’re running up those ladders or falling off or jumping off things; is that really what we should be doing? Probably not,” said Dr. Grover.
Dr. Grover said it’s wise for caregivers to do a sweep of the playground before letting the kids loose to make sure there is no debris or trash that could injure them.
She also reminds parents that open-toed sandals and flip-flops are a bad idea, as doctors often see splinters in the feet from wooden playground mulch.
“If you see a splinter which is sticking out – so you can see the top part of the surface is out of the skin – it’s okay to take it out with a clean pair of forceps,” Dr. Grover said.
However, in the event that a splinter is embedded, she advises parents not to try to take it out on their own, because it might break and then the splinter is caught deeper in the skin and will require more effort to get it out.