Parents warned of slide danger

Parents think they're doing the safe thing, but there's a hidden danger in going down a slide as a twosome.
Parents think they're doing the safe thing, but there's a hidden danger in going down a slide as a twosome. Photo: Getty Images

It's something parents do in parks across the country every day of the week - pop their baby or toddler on their lap and slide down a slippery dip together.

But Monique Smith* learnt the hard way that the seemingly harmless fun with her son was fraught with danger.

The Sydney mum's one-year-old son Maxwell sustained a broken leg recently while riding down a slide on her lap.

Maxwell will be in a cast for four weeks as his leg heals.
Maxwell will be in a cast for four weeks as his leg heals.  Photo: Supplied

The accident happened with the rubber sole of Maxwell's shoe got caught on the slide.

"It didn't even get stuck completely, but it was just hard enough that with me coming down behind him it pushed his leg enough to fracture his tibia," Mrs Smith explained.

"I felt terrible, I had no idea what we were doing could be dangerous, but the orthopaedic doctor we saw said it happens all the time."

As Mrs Smith learnt, the danger of an adult sliding with a toddler on their lap arises because the child is unable to control their own movement. If a foot gets caught while a toddler is sliding alone, they can stop moving or twist around until the foot is freed - but when the child is sitting in an adult lap, the force of the adult's weight moving behind them is enough to break their leg.

Manager of the Kidsafe NSW Playground Advisory Unit Kay Lockhart agreed that Maxwell and his mum were not the only ones to have suffered the injury.

"Parents think they are doing to right thing by putting their child on their lap to go down a slide, but it is actually safer to stand beside young children and hold their hand," Ms Lockhart said.

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"It's the same with children sliding with each other, so we advise that slides should always be one at a time."

There is no available data from Australian hospitals showing how common these injuries are, however one WA report shows that 15 per cent of all playground injuries occur on slippery dips.

And in the US, one study found that 14 per cent of paediatric leg fractures over an 11-month period involved toddlers riding down the slide with a parent, according to the New York Times.

Maxwell is all smiles, despite the accident.
Maxwell is all smiles, despite the accident.  Photo: Supplied

The study's author, paediatric orthopedic specialist John Gaffney, said he sees a spate of slide leg injuries in spring each year.

"As soon as the weather gets warm, this starts to happen," he told the Times.

"It's so common, but parents say: 'How did I not know about this? I thought it was doing something good for my child by having them sit on my lap.'"

When young children injure their leg the break is not always immediately obvious, but there is a continuing pain and they are unable to put any weight on it.

This is exactly what happened in Maxwell's case.

"At first he didn't cry for that long at all and we went home and he had a sleep," Mrs Smith said.

"But then he woke up and he couldn't put any weight on it, so I suspected it might be more serious."

Maxwell will have his leg in a cast for four weeks while his leg recovers.

Mrs Smith said her son, who was just beginning to walk before the accident, is coping well with the discomfort.

"He gets frustrated when he tries to stand up, but other than that he has been quite adaptable," she said.

"I just want to let other parents know about the danger, because it is not something that I would ever have considered."

* Last name has been changed

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