For parents, it’s a natural impulse.
Your child is afraid to go down the slide at the local playground. To help them relax, you offer to slide down with them (plus, if you’re being honest, a part of you really wants to go down the slide). You climb to the top, put your child on your lap, and slide to the ground. It’s all in good fun, right?
Not quite. As some unfortunate parents are finding out, the practice can be dangerous.
The New York Times reported on one such case in 2012. Katie Dickman went down a slide while holding her daughter, Hannah, but on the way down, the little girl’s shoelace got stuck on part of the slide. Unfortunately, Katie’s momentum prevented a clean stop, and Hannah suffered a fractured tibia.
“My wife was just trying to keep Hannah extra safe and make sure she didn’t fall,” Hannah’s father, Jed Dickman, told the New York Times. “She felt very guilty about it.”
This isn’t the sort of injury that can be easily tracked through public statistics, but pediatric orthopedic specialists say that it’s surprisingly common.
Adults may have trouble controlling their momentum on slides, causing broken bones and bruises.
“It is not uncommon for young children to be injured when riding down a slide on a caregiver’s lap,” Dr. Anne Butler, Medical Director of PM Pediatrics of Forest Hills, said to Mommy Nearest. “The shin bone can be broken when the child’s foot or leg gets caught or twisted and the caregiver’s weight continues to push them down the slide.”
Dr. Edward Holt, the orthopedic surgeon who treated Hannah’s injuries at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Maryland, concurred.
“This fracture is entirely preventable, and I am speaking out about this fracture to publicize how it happens,” Dr. Holt said in a YouTube video. “I’d like to not see this fracture occur anymore.”
Holt says that most injuries occur when children wear rubber-soled shoes. The shoes create enough friction to stop the child’s foot on the slide, but the weight of the adult doesn’t allow for a natural stop. In some cases, children purposely try to stop by putting out their feet, which can exacerbate the injury.
“It can create significant deformity and require surgical treatment,” Holt said. “The parent—the adult—is just devastated for having caused a fracture when they were trying to keep the child safe.”
“Sometimes one parent is angry at the other parent because that parent caused the child’s fracture,” he told the New York Times. “It has some real consequences to families, and I hate to see it happen.”
So, how can you help your child slide safely?
Simple: Let them take on the slide alone. If they’re too young to go down without adult assistance, they’re probably too young to play on the slide, period.
Of course, adults can still go down slides on their own to show kids that it’s a safe, fun exercise (provided that the slide is designed to hold an adult’s weight).