By Emily Harrington
The day after Christmas it seemed downright balmy as the temperatures danced in the upper 50s. My toddler and I stopped at the park for a few minutes before heading home for lunch. I almost went straight home. Almost. I just didn’t want to miss this unseasonably warm day. His summer muscle memory led him to the “big kid” slide. I situated him on my lap and away we went. In the second it took to reach the bottom, the rubber sole of his shoe grazed the side of the slide. His shoe caught and sent his left leg backward as we propelled forward. The rest was a blur of tears. He was inconsolable. At that moment I didn’t even know anything serious could be wrong. There was no drama—no crash, no fall, no crack, no blood, no bruise, no bump—not even a scratch. Surely he was going to stop crying and everything would be OK. He didn’t. I tried to set him down and his left leg just shook as it hovered above the ground.
We raced to the emergency department where we were told he had fractured the long bone under his knee, the tibia. After nine days in a splint and a four-week prognosis in a cast, my son will thankfully never remember this time in his life. My husband and I, however, will never forget it as long as we live.
When telling others about the injury, they would immediately shake their head as if they had heard this before. Huh? Slides are super dangerous? Why didn’t anyone tell me this? Where was this in the “How to Raise a Kid” handbook I never received? My son and I were just doing something that we had done dozens of times before! It was supposed to be fun and innocent and safe, in fact, safer than letting him go down the slide alone. I was wrong.
Research explains it’s much more dangerous for a parent to hold a child on their lap than to supervise or assist them going down the slide on their own (while you stand to the side of the slide). According to a baby gooroo article, when a child is sliding down on their own, the friction will slow or stop the child’s progress, allowing them to lift their legs or twist their foot free before continuing down the slide.
I thought I was making it safer for my son to go down the slide by putting him on my lap. But, when the child is on the lap of the caregiver and the shoe catches on the slide, the friction is not enough to overcome the force of their combined body weight. The leg is twisted and the leg bone breaks before you can ever stop your momentum.
I couldn’t believe the amount of information out there about this particular accident. There are articles, videos and studies about this specific fracture caused by this specific act. One orthopedic physician created a YouTube video in an effort to educate parents about this accident. He was tired of seeing children sustain an entirely preventable injury simply because parents were unaware.
A 2009 study by the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics outlined tibia fractures among children ages 17 years and younger seen during an 11-month period at an emergency room or doctor’s office in the state of New York. The study found that 14 percent involved children younger than 3 years old, and that all of the studied injuries resulted from riding down a slide on a caregiver’s lap.
As the weather gets warmer and you head to the park, remember a few tips to keep your child safe and your sanity in check. Falls from or onto merry-go-rounds, monkey bars, swings, teeter-totters and slides are all common park offenders. We all want to head to our area parks after being cooped up this winter. But, just do so with an extra focus on the following:
- Supervision. Keep an eye on your little ones.
- Age-appropriate equipment. Make sure what your children choose to play on is not outside of their physical capabilities. Many of our area playgrounds have age suggestions posted for equipment use.
- Safe environment. Is the playground in good shape? Is their trash or obstructions on the ground? The ground should also be somewhat soft with mulch or shredded rubber.
I’m not trying to be a fear monger. My hope is this article exposes a danger that parents may have been unaware of. If a few parents go to the park this spring with this story in the back of their mind, maybe it will save their child an unnecessary injury and themselves a lot of heartache. I had no idea this seemingly innocent act was dangerous, and I wish I had.
Emily Harrington is a Chambana townie that left her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job to be a 24/7 mom to a dreamy son. Still interested in writing, Emily uses some of naptime to practice her passion and keep her mind right. Emily is a happy wife with a happy life because she fell for a fellow townie. Oh, and let’s not forget her other son, a degenerate canine named Heppenheimer.