Parents who slide down playground slides with their child on their lap may be putting their kids at risk for injuries, a new report says.
According to researchers at the American Academy of Pediatrics, small children under the age of six are more susceptible to broken legs, especially leg fractures, when they share a slide with an adult.
“Many parents and caregivers go down a slide with a young child on their lap without giving it a second thought,” lead researcher Charles Jennissen said in a statement. “And in most cases I have seen, the parents had no idea that doing so could possibly give their child such a significant injury. They often say they would never have done it had they known.”
Between 2002 and 2015, 352,698 children under the age of six reported an injury on a slide in the U.S., the report points out.
Toddlers between the ages of 12 and 23 months had the highest rate of injury, researchers say, with 36 per cent of injuries being fractures – usually involving the lower leg.
Jennissen says the size and weight of adults seem to play a role in the potential injury. Kids who slide by themselves are unlikely to sustain an injury to their leg, even if their foot catches because there’s so little force involved. But if that force is brought forth with momentum by an adult with a child on the lap, the force is much greater and can easily break a child’s bone if caught on the slide.
It’s a safety message Lewis Smith, manager of national projects at Canada Safety Council can get behind.
“It’s an injury that is so easily preventable,” Smith, who wasn’t a part of the study, says. “When it comes to something so simple like not going down the slide with a child, then yes it’s something we agree with. We always advocate that people should go down slides one at a time, no matter the age or size of the people.”
However, even though the study reported over 350,000 injuries in children under six, it’s important to put those statistics into perspective, Smith says.
So while it may sound like a lot of injuries, note that those statistics are drawn out over a 14-year period.
Despite that, playground slide injuries are not uncommon, Smith says.
“We do see enough playground injuries that are avoidable,” he says. “It’s the kind of thing we address pretty frequently.”
So what can parents and caregivers do to make sure playtime at the playground is safe for small children?
“The number one thing is supervision,” Smith points out. “If a parent is concerned about a child’s ability to ride the slide, they should be waiting at the foot of the slide in case the child slides down in a slightly unsafe way so the parent can be ready to catch them.”
And instead of sitting with the child on the slide, another idea may be to stand beside the slide, using your hands to guide the child down until they reach the bottom.
“Also consider metallic slides in the sun,” Smith advises. “We need to be careful of those because the sun can make them really hot to the touch to the point where the child would be uncomfortable touching it, let alone sliding down it.”
According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, at least 29,000 kids under the age of 15 are treated for playground injuries in emergency departments every year in Canada. The highest risk of injury occurs in kids between five and nine years of age.