Playground Safety: How I Learned the Hard Way


Playground safety is something I don’t take lightly anymore. It’s not that I never did, but I learned a difficult lesson the hard way as a new mom years ago.

My son was a month away from turning two years old. We drove an hour west of town to visit his aunt and play on a new, big, local playground. My son is not the daredevil type and anything new scares him, even to this day sometimes. I wanted to help him get over his fears by going onto some of the equipment with him. We chased each other around on the bridges and climbed together.

It was almost time to leave for lunch so I took him up to the biggest slide. He was too scared to go down and asked to sit on my lap. That’s where my nightmare begins.

We slid down, kind of getting stuck halfway down (I noticed his shoe got caught). At the bottom, he didn’t seem overly excited or scared anymore so I went to set him on the ground so we could all walk back to the car. He didn’t want to stand and asked to be picked up. He never cried. He just wanted to be carried.

We place him in the car and he is sort of whining a little bit but it was past lunchtime and almost nap time for him so I chalked it up to his toddler hanger. We arrived at a local restaurant and I tried to place him in his high chair. He adamantly refused. Even sitting on my lap he did whine a little bit as if he was uncomfortable.

I told my husband I think we needed to take him to the doctor (this being a Saturday) and he said I was overreacting. We ended up leaving without ordering food and my son slept the entire hour drive home. I still had a bad feeling so we stopped at my mom’s house on the northwest side of Indy (knowingly close to Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital). As soon as we woke him up from his car nap, he still refused to stand on his own. This was not like him, especially at grandma’s house where we all know there are no rules.

I immediately told my husband that I was taking him to PMCH Emergency Department because I had a bad feeling.

When we arrived, I was greeted by a friendly front desk and triage nurse as well as a previous coworker who still worked in the E.D. there. They took us back to a room where he sat and watched cartoons and the Child Life Specialist showed up to save the day and provided him with some cool toys to play with. The x-rays were taken. Then came the 5 different staff who asked for my story over and over.

I knew exactly why they were doing that. I knew it was bad at that point. Not once did I feel like I was being blamed but I internally knew this was my fault. I stayed calm and explained repeatedly that he was sitting on my lap and we went down the slide, his shoe caught on the side and that was it. Everyone accepted the story and then I was shown the x-rays. He had a spiral fracture (common in child abuse as well as playground injuries).

Finally, the E.D. doctor came back in, and by this time I was almost in tears blaming myself. She stated that she was pregnant with her fourth boy and to not worry about it. These things happen. She tried to lighten the mood by saying, “Now you just need to wait for your first E.D. trip for stitches.” It worked. I chuckled and tried to focus on getting him better and not blaming myself.

He was then placed in a temporary splint for the remainder of the weekend until he could see an orthopedist Monday who would eventually place him in a hard cast for 3 weeks.

What I didn’t know before this is that more than half of the playground-related injuries treated in Emergency Departments are fractures and contusions/abrasions. When a child rides down the slide on their parent’s lap, sometimes their shoes can catch on the side or bottom of the slide and the excessive force from the additional weight of the adult can force them down the slide even with the foot being stationary. This can cause a fracture in the legs from the force or a twisting motion.

Lesson very much learned. Let your kids play on the slides by themselves. If your mom gut tells you something is wrong, LISTEN TO IT! You’re always right, mama.