Avoiding Broken Legs On Slides

You're always careful with your kids at the park. But what if the thing you think is keeping them safe is actually putting them at risk for serious injury?

Toddler on Mother's Lap going down slide

You're at the park with your toddler. After three hours (okay, fine, maybe it was five minutes) of swinging -- with you pushing the whole time -- she decides she's ready for the slide. You make your way over to the play structure.

Up close, that slide looks awfully high, and your little one is so...little. Clearly, you cannot possibly send her down the slide all alone. You're a responsible parent! You'll hold her on your lap, at least the first few times. Until she's had a chance to get her bearings.
You climb up, set your child on your lap, and down you go -- except that your toddler's leg is stuck between you and the slide, and -- that sound!

How it happens

quotation mark open Although going down the slide with a child on your lap may seem like an enjoyable moment for both of you, you may be putting your child in danger quotation mark close

Almost 14 percent of tibia fractures -- that's the larger and stronger of the two bones in the leg below the knee -- in toddlers ages 14 to 32 months were sustained while sliding down a slide on an adult's lap, according to a recent study in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics.

Injuries typically happened when the leg of a young child sliding in an adult's lap became fixed, while both the adult and child continued moving down the slide, or when the child's leg became twisted, creating a torque that led to a fracture in the lower extremity, explains study author John T. Gaffney, DO, an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in pediatrics in New York.
And every single fracture happened when toddlers were sliding in the lap of an adult or an older sibling. "Although going down the slide with a child on your lap may seem like an enjoyable moment for both of you, you may be putting your child in danger," says Dr. Gaffney.

quick tip:

Either let your toddler go down the slide on her own, or don't let her go down it at all.

Avoiding playground injuries

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons also offers other tips to avoid playground injuries:
  • Avoid playgrounds that have concrete, asphalt, hard-packed soil, or grass. The surface should be made of wood chips, mulch, or shredded rubber for play equipment up to seven feet high.
  • Steer children to age-appropriate playground equipment.
  • Check to see that there is enough space for kids to easily get off the slide or merry-go-round. Don't let kids crowd around the exit areas.
  • Try the handgrips to verify they are shaped and sized for easy grasp.
  • Swing seats should be made of plastic or rubber. Avoid metal or wood.
  • Avoid any equipment that has openings that could entrap a child's head.
  • Be sure you can clearly see your children on the playground. The kids should have clear, unobstructed views from their height.
  • Remove tripping hazards such as exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, or rocks.
Has your child ever been injured on the playground? Sound off in the comments!

For more on keeping kids safe:

Tags: kids and slides kids broken legs playground safety slides and broken legs

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Comments on "Why sliding with kids is dangerous"

Victoria DeBoard January 31, 2013 | 10:50 AM

I wish I had know about this before two days ago. I broke my 26 month olds leg. It happened exactly how described. The rubber of her shoe caused her foot to go to the side of the slide, and it went up underneath me. My father actually snapped a shot the moment it happened, and you can see my daughters foot twisted all the way backwards. Broke my heart.

Ness July 02, 2012 | 7:10 PM

Well, who on Earth would slide down the slide like in that photo? I always had my legs TOGETHER- and his on top of mine. Dumb people.

Naomi de la Torre October 09, 2011 | 9:34 AM

This exact thing happened to me when my son was 15 months old. I was mortified and so sad about it. He is okay and healed perfectly, but it was a terrible scare. Thanks for this informative article!

Julianne October 08, 2011 | 10:03 PM

This just happened to my friends daughter and the two year old has a broken leg. The er doctor said it happens often! You just have to be careful

Blair September 18, 2011 | 5:05 PM

This is bloody pathetic. Talk about cotton wooling your children. Let kids be kids for gods sake

Melanie May 13, 2010 | 11:35 AM

Thank you for the great article! I only wish I would have read it before taking my son to the park yesterday and-- as you might have guessed-- sliding down with him on my lap and getting his leg caught between me and the edge of the slide. Luckily, it didn't break his leg, but he is extremely sore, can't move his leg/ankle without pain, and feels pretty miserable. I'll be sharing a link to this article on my blog. Thanks again!

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