The warm weather brings families closer to playgrounds to help children burn energy and local pediatricians rejoice at the sight of increased physical activity and outdoor play time to benefit mental health. But as excited as everyone is for more outdoor activity, it’s important for parents to be alert and help mitigate injuries from children moving quickly to crowded playgrounds this summer.
This year, there has been a notable rise in injuries to the playground due to falls in climbing equipment, which have specifically caused fractures of the wrists, elbows and ankles. Fractures account for approximately 35% of all yard injuries that occur in emergency services, with approximately 50% of limb fractures requiring hospitalization at monkey bars or climbing gyms. Injuries such as cuts, scratches and bruises can also occur, and even when equipment such as swings or slides are used.
Children should always be supervised while in the yard to avoid injury. Here are some tips to keep your kids as safe as possible:
• Look for playgrounds with a surface base of crushed rubber, wood chips or sand. These surfaces are safer than asphalt or cement because they provide a smoother landing.
• Watch out for damaged equipment that may have sharp edges.
• Avoid the yard if it is wet. Wet equipment can slip and children can fall easily.
• Consider the age and size of your child; make sure the playground is the right size for your child.
• Children should always wear shoes to the playground and not go barefoot. Going barefoot puts your child at risk of getting splinters or glass on their feet. Also, keep the cords tied so that the loose cords can get caught and cause a fall.
• Make sure your child gets off the slide one at a time. If a small child is in an adult lap down the slide, the leg may become trapped below the adult, causing a leg injury and possibly a fracture.
• Only one person should be on a swing at a time. Also, be careful when walking in front of a moving swing. If the child is too close, he may be hit.
Playgrounds offer a great place for kids to go out and have fun, so we want to encourage outdoor play in these structures. But after playing, take note if your child complains of pain in a specific area. If a deformity is noticed, it is likely to be a fracture and you should seek attention immediately. If there is swelling, this could also be a fracture. Pain or thighs that do not resolve within a day or two are worrisome and may indicate an injury that should be treated.
If you think your child may be injured, you should contact your pediatrician or provider immediately. I hope you and your family can go out and enjoy the warm weather and outdoor activity safely.
• Child health is an ongoing series. Dr. Kristina Walick is a specialist in pediatric orthopedic surgery at Advocate Children’s Hospital. For more information, visit advocateaurorahealth.org.