My girls were both little pip squeaks when they were younger. But like most toddler spit-fires, that never stopped them from wanting to do everything the big kids were doing at the playground. To keep them safe, I often played along with them, even going so far as to slide down the slide with my girls on my lap so they could experience the thrill of the ride while nestled safely in my lap. But were they really any safer, or was I putting my girls at greater risk of injury?
Turns out it was the latter.
A study to be presented Sept. 18 at the the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition estimates that 352,698 children less than 6 years of age were injured on slides in the U.S. from 2002 through 2015. Thirty-six percent of those injuries were fractures, mostly in the lower leg. This sort of fracture occurs when a child's foot gets snagged on the edge or bottom of the slide, twists and then bends backwards while sitting in the parent's lap.
According to the researchers, the size and weight of the adult can play a part in the potential of injury, compared to the weight of a child sliding by themselves. Because the parent is larger, the forward momentum created by going down the slide is much greater, resulting in more force that can easily injure the child.
"Many parents and caregivers go down a slide with a young child on their lap without giving it a second thought," lead researcher Dr. Charles Jennissen, Clinical Professor and Pediatric Emergency Medicine Staff Physician, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, 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."
These doctors aren't the only ones to take notice of the dangers of sliding with your kid.
Back in 2011, Dr. Ed Holt, an orthopedic surgeon at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Maryland, was trying to get the word out about what he called the "sliding board fracture." He identified it as a common playground injury that is caused by parents who think they are keeping kids safe by sliding down the slide with them. In fact, it's not all that different from the lower leg fracture described in the study above.
Sliding board fractures are caused when a parent and child are riding down the slide together and the child's shoe catches for a moment on the side or base of the slide. If the child had been riding down the slide on her own, the stuck foot would simply cause her to slow down. But with the momentum of an adult behind her, she keeps sliding, fracturing her tibia along the way. Sound at all familiar?
Need a visual? Holt created a video to explain, and to warn parents about the risk:
Bottom line: If your child is too small to slide down the slide on her own, try holding her hand from the side, or better yet, directing her to another playground activity. I know, I know, that may be easier said than done. But it may be worth enduring a tantrum if it means protecting her little legs.
This story has been updated with new information since its original publication in May 2012.