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Play It Safe While Playing on the Slide

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Do you remember the first time your child went down a sliding board? Or do you have a toddler who is about ready to make their first trip down the slide? I remember watching my child climb the ladder up a sliding board, and then looking back and saying, “Mommy, you come with me.” So, up the ladder you go, putting your child in your lap for that first sliding board experience. Isn’t that the safest and easiest way to teach your child about a sliding board? What a sense of accomplishment, for both parent and child. Such a fun day at the park!!

Well, I was reading a study by Dr. John Gaffney in an issue of the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics. Dr. Gaffney noted that he was seeing fractures of the tibia (shin bone) in toddlers, many of whom had a history of being on a slide.

I must admit, I haven’t ever seen a fractured tibia from a sliding board accident, but he looked at medical records for all tibia fractures he treated over an 11- month period. Of the 58 tibia fractures he studied, eight (13.8%) were sustained while playing on a playground slide.

The age range of these patients was 14 – 32 months, and the average age of the eight patients in the study was 20.7 months. All of the tibia fractures associated with playing on a slide were sustained while going down the slide on the lap of an adult or an older sibling. None of the eight children studied had been on the slide alone.

Dr. Gaffney states, “if a toddler is riding by himself and gets his leg stuck against the side of the slide, he can stop himself fairly easily, but with a parent’s weight added in you have greater velocity and momentum and it is harder to stop and the leg may get wedged and subsequently break.” He advises that if a child cannot use a sliding board independently, you should look for another age appropriate piece of playground equipment. I guess that would mean the sandbox.

Thank goodness that I was lucky enough that all of my children made it safely down the slide with their parents, as I know both my husband and I were on the slide numerous times. I am sure I have pictures of that event, but I will be telling my patients about this interesting study.

Like many things, there are risks involved, so find a smaller slide that your child can handle alone, or just wait until they are bigger. It ironic that something that we think will make our children safer might actually cause more injury.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Send your question to Dr. Sue right now!

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