With summer in full swing and children taking advantage of more time to participate in sports-related or other outdoor activities, it’s essential to be mindful of injury prevention while encouraging their interest in activities that don’t involve screen time! The fact is, accidents can happen practically anywhere – on a swing set in your backyard, riding a skateboard in a park or biking on a neighborhood designated path.
While we must let kids play and be kids, it is also imperative to recognize that children don’t typically have the experience or knowledge to make the safest decisions. To mitigate or at least limit the risk of injuries, adults can take several steps to create safer environments for children as they participate in outdoor recreational activities.
Playing on Playgrounds
Each year, more than 220,000 children under age 14 are treated in hospital emergency rooms across the United States for injuries occurring on playgrounds. Although minor bumps, bruises, and cuts frequently occur on playgrounds, many playground injuries are more severe. Broken bones, sprains and strains, internal organ injuries, dislocations and concussions are the most common playground-related injuries that require a doctor's care.
- Have your child play on age-appropriate playground equipment and follow instructions posted at the playground.
- Ground coverings should be made of rubber or filled with rubber wood chips when possible, especially for younger children.
- Do a quick temperature check of the slide and other equipment with the back of your hand to avoid burns from scalding hot metal or plastic.
- Don’t allow children to go down slides more than one at a time or headfirst or climb up the front of the slide.
- Ensure children are seated when they are on a swing, wait until the swing stops to get off and avoid walking in front of others while swinging.
Riding Bicycles & Scooters
The most important thing to remember when riding bicycles, scooters and other ride-on toys is wearing a helmet and other appropriate safety gear. Scooters, in particular, led to more than 81,000 hospital emergency room visits in 2017. While head trauma is the most severe injury we see in bicycle and scooter accidents, the most common injuries include cuts, sprains and fractures of the wrist and elbow.
- Check the height and weight restrictions/requirements for the bicycle or scooter to make sure it is the appropriate size for your child.
- Children should avoid riding at night and on surfaces that are slippery or uneven and soft sand, which can also create hazardous riding conditions.
- Inspect your child’s bike or scooter for loose parts, ensure the steering column/handlebars are working correctly along with any breaking/stopping mechanism. Older children should be taught to inspect their bicycle or scooter before they ride.
- Supervise children of all ages closely the first few times they ride. Younger children who ride should be supervised at all times and ride only in enclosed areas.
- Riders of all ages need to dress appropriately by avoiding loose clothing and wearing appropriate footwear (no flip flops).
Skateboarding & Longboarding
Skateboarding and longboarding are also popular recreational activities among children and teenagers. However, approximately 70,000 skateboard-related injuries require a visit to emergency departments each year, with half of those involving children 15 or younger. Whether your child is doing a “kickturn” on their skateboard or loses their balance while standing stationary on top of a longboard, injuries can occur. Like other ride-on toys, fractures or dislocations to more severe head injuries can be prevented with the proper protective gear.
- Children under five years old should not ride skateboards, and those 6 to 10 years should be closely supervised while riding close supervision from an adult whenever they ride a skateboard.
- In addition to a properly fitted helmet, wrist guards that support the wrist and reduce the chances of breaking a bone should be worn along with elbow and knee pads to reduce the severity of cuts, scrapes and gravel burns.
- Check to make sure your child empties their pockets of all hard and sharp objects before putting on protective gear and that they wear closed-toed shoes with slip-resistant soles.
- Children should avoid riding on irregular surfaces or homemade skateboard ramps or riding in wet weather, crowded walkways or poorly lit areas.
- Allow your child to practice in a skate park that offers a controlled environment, experienced adult staff and appropriate access to medical care
If your child experiences an injury while participating in one of these or any other outdoor recreation activity, the fellowship-trained physicians at The Hand Center provide non-surgical treatment options and surgical intervention. Dr. Steven Kronlage, Dr. Alex Coleman and Dr. James Piorkowski treat both pediatric and adult patients, with same-day and next-day appointments in our Gulf Breeze and Pensacola locations. State-of-the-art, on-site imaging and diagnostics are also available at both locations to make your visit as convenient as possible.