4 Activities That Could Land Your Child in the Hospital

By Jill Flanagan, MD, Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

As a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon with more than 2,000 surgeries under my belt, I know how easy it is for blissful playtime to turn into tears and cast time. As a mom of two spirited boys, ages 4 and 6, I also know how important it is for kids to experience the joys of childhood.

As much as I love seeing my patients, part of my job is to keep kids out of my office. As your little ones grow and explore the adventures that await them on playgrounds and in backyards, keep these tips in mind.

Monkey bars
Simply put, monkey bars keep people like me in business. About half of the elbow breaks I see are the result of monkey bar accidents. From case to case, the story is almost always the same: unsupervised child, monkey bars, slipped grip, hand used to break fall. The fracture usually occurs in a part of the arm bone (humerus) just above the elbow joint, where the thinness of the bone renders it prone to cracking when the elbow is bent backward.

Do I tell my kids they can’t go on monkey bars? No. I want my kids to be kids, but my boys know they’re only allowed on monkey bars if, and only if, an adult is there to spot them.

If you’ve been to a playground, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a parent sliding down a slide with a toddler—say, 18 months old—in his lap. It makes for a great picture and a happy kid. When the child naturally juts out a foot on the ride down, though, it’s easy for a leg to get stuck and fracture the tibia, or shin bone.

To help prevent a tibial fracture, grip the child’s legs below the knees and push the legs inward as you slide down.

As your little ones grow and explore the adventures that await them on playgrounds and in backyards, keep these tips in mind.

Is it possible for your child to jump on a trampoline without getting hurt? Yes. Is it a risky move? Yes. The potential for injury rises significantly if there is more than one child on the trampoline.

If you allow your child to jump on a trampoline, make sure they know that it’s one child at a time on the trampoline. Stunts, such as flipping or somersaults, should be completely off limits, as they pose a high risk for head and neck injuries. Also, beware of indoor furniture that can be turned into a makeshift trampoline. If you’ve seen the aftermath of one unsuccessful dismount from a bed, couch or coffee table, you’ve seen too many.

Nursemaid’s elbow
If you know what nursemaid’s elbow is there’s a good chance you learned the hard way. Nursemaid’s elbow is a common injury in early childhood that happens when a child’s elbow is pulled and partially dislocated. It can happen easily, often when a parent is swinging a child by the arms. If it happens once, there’s a good chance it will happen again.

Be mindful of the risk of pulling, tugging or swinging a child by her arms or hands—doing so just might result in a trip to the emergency department.

Of course, there’s only so much we can do to protect our kids. Accidents can and will happen. If you suspect your child has a broken bone but you don’t see bone through the skin, head to an urgent care center. If you can see a bone, it’s time to visit an emergency department.

Dr. Flanagan has a passion for improving bone health in children, and her specialties include limb deformity, limb lengthening, osteogenesis imperfecta and managing adolescent scoliosis, especially in females).

At Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, our Emergency Departments and Urgent Care Centers offer radiology services that allow doctors to diagnose your child’s injury quickly and determine the proper treatment. Our imaging protocols keep patients’ exposure to radiation at a minimum. If more care coordination is needed, pediatric orthopaedic surgeons can use digital technology to view X-rays and offer treatment recommendations, even while off-site.