Analyzing Playground Equipment – Slides Essay

            Playgrounds are interactive environments that allow children to develop motor, cognitive, perceptual and social skills through physical activity (Bond & Peck, 731). However, playgrounds can also be the cause of severe injury or in rare cases, death (Bond & Peck, 731). Playground equipment has been rated the fifth most dangerous consumer product by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Falling is the most common cause of playground injury accounting for seventy to seventy-six percent of all injuries sustained while playing on the playground (Bond & Peck, 731). Falls can cause a variety of contusions, abrasions, lacerations and head injury that can lead to serious injury or even death (Bond & Peck, 731). Slides are a popular piece of playground equipment and are responsible for a variety of injuries. Slides will be analyzed with regards to anatomical injuries suffered by children who enjoy sliding.

            Ninety-three percent of playground injuries occur in children under the age of fifteen (Fisher, et al, 1000). While using the slide, a child is at risk for a variety of injuries with falling being the most common (Fisher, et al, 1000). However, children are at risk for strangulations, concussions, fractures, contusions, dislocations, sprains and lacerations while playing on the slides (Fisher, et al, 1000). Falling off of the slide is the most common injury associated with sliding. Strangulations can occur if parts of clothing get caught on the slide when a child falls. Concussions, fractures, contusions, dislocations, sprains and lacerations are all dangers associated with actual falls off the slide. These injuries can also be caused by the actual activity of sliding but this is less common.

            Typical playgrounds are designed for preschool aged children through middle elementary age children; approximately 3 years to 8 years old. Children are still growing at these ages and any type of injury can have a negative impact on their future growth. There are a variety of body parts used when going down the slide. The primary body parts used to go down the slide include the shoulders, arms and legs. Therefore, the greatest risk of injury are to the muscles and joints associated with these body parts. A child uses the movements of the humerus at the shoulder joint (Kapit & Elson, 48) to hold onto the handle above the slide in order to launch him or herself down the slide. The two primary movements to the shoulder joint and arm muscle include the flexion movement and the medial rotation movement (Kapit & Elson, 48). The flexion movement includes moving the arm upward and the medial rotation movement includes rotating the shoulder (Kapit & Elson, 48). The risk of injury to this joint and muscle group is when a child overextends the shoulder when launching down the slide. Similarly, injury to the flexors of the elbow joint (brachialis and biceps brachii) can also occur when preparing to launch down the slide (Kapit & Elson, 49). Finally, the carpals, or flexors of the wrist are at risk for injury due to overextension (Kapit & Elson, 50). The shoulder, elbow and wrist joints can be dislocated or fractured if injured during the course of launching down the slide.

            The leg joints and muscles are also in danger of being injured while using the slide. The legs are used to propel down the slide and are also used to stop at the bottom of the slide. Injury can occur when a leg gets caught while going down the slide or is injured as a result of stopping. The hip joint (Kapit & Elson, 56) is in danger when a leg gets caught and is fractured or dislocated. A more common injury occurs at the knee joint. The patellar ligament (Kapit & Elson, 56) can be overextended or sprained if a leg is caught or if a child is unsuccessful at stopping at the bottom of the slide. The hamstring and calf muscles (Kapit & Elson, 56) can also be sprained or pulled if stopping at the bottom is unsuccessful.

            Children are still gaining limb length and muscle mass as they grow so injuries from sliding can cause delays in proper development. Motor development refers to the growth in the ability of children to use their bodies and physical skills (Brotherson, 1). There are three types of motor development to consider when discussing children who are gaining limb length and muscle mass. These are 1) gross motor skills, 2) fine motor skills and 3) balance and coordination skills (Brotherson, 1). Injuries sustained from playing on slides can all have an impact on the proper development of these skills due to delays in proper formation of limb length and muscle mass. Gross motor skills relate to the development of a child’s large muscle mass growth and the ability to use large muscle groups to engage in physical activity. Young children gain muscle mass more rapidly in the torso area so they are more prone to falls as a result of this higher center of gravity (Brotherson, 1). Therefore, young children are at greater risk for falling off of a slide and sustaining injury to their muscles and joints.

            Fine motor skills refer to the muscle mass growth of small muscles including the ability to control hands and feet (Brotherson, 1). Balance and coordination are important to development because they allow young children to perform the complex motions associated with going down a slide (Brotherson, 1). Children learn to balance and coordinate movements by figuring out how to twist, turn and pull in order to maintain stability (Brotherson, 1). Proper balance and coordination are essential for expecting the body to do what it needs to do in order to successfully go down the slide.

            The risk of injury to large muscles and joints can impede proper muscle and joint growth while an injury is healing. If a joint gets fractured or dislocated or a muscle sustains being pulled or sprained, a child will not have the use of that body part for a period of time. Children grow and develop rapidly so it is dangerous to future anatomy to sustain an injury from playing on the slide. If a child fractures a joint and has to wear a cast for a period of time, that joint will cease developing in order to properly heal. If the healing process is extended then the child can suffer future joint problems that can get in the way of future physical activity. Similarly, children who must rest an injured muscle for a long period of time miss out on critical muscle mass development that is crucial to physical growth (Brotherson, 1).

            Young children who play on slides are perhaps at greater risk for serious developmental delays given the fact that they still have much developing to do. Older children may not face as great a risk but their muscles and joints are still at risk. Playgrounds typically post the appropriate ages for the equipment included on that specific playground and should be used as a guide for determining how old children should be before using certain equipment. Playground equipment is designed with certain age ranges in mind and these guidelines serve the purpose of reducing and eliminating bodily harm to children. Since slides are one of the most popular pieces of playground equipment, it is important to carefully note these guidelines before allowing young children to go down the slide.

            Change in body position is another aspect that can lead to serious injury. Children often decide to go down the slide head first and this can cause serious head injury at the bottom of the slide. Further it makes it more likely that a child will fall off of the slide and falling is the most common factor in playground injury (Bond & Peck, 731). However, changing position while actually sliding can also lead to serious injuries – most likely to joints and muscles. Minor injuries such as pulling a muscle are very likely when shifting from a feet down position to a head down position while in the actual act of going down the slide. It is also likely that more serious injury can occur if a child doesn’t go down the slide properly.

            Using the legs to turn to a different position on the slide has the potential of injuring the patellar ligament (Kapit & Elson, 56) as knees are the primary joint used to change positions. Flexors of the elbow joint (Kapit & Elson, 59) can also be injured if a child uses his or her arms to change positions while in the process of sliding. Children can also change body positions if they accidentally lose their balance or grip on the slide. Body position changes have the potential for causing severe injury to joints but also to large muscle groups as well. Finally, changing the position in which one goes down the slide can cause injury because the time it takes to get to the bottom of the slide is often overestimated and children are not prepared to stop themselves.

            Admittedly, minor injuries to the joints and muscles are much more common than major injuries. However, a series of minor injuries can often leave a child more susceptible to a major injury (Alkon, 1248). Studies of minor injuries to joints and muscles while playing on slides can provide risk assessment for the potential of a major injury in the future (Alkon, 1248). Further, the more time a child spends on the playground increases the risk of suffering an injury from using the slide. For every 2000 hours a child plays on the playground they are at risk for at least one major injury (Alkon, 1248).

            Age also plays a role in the potential for suffering a major injury from playing on the slide. Research shows that younger children are more likely to suffer a major injury (Alkon, 1250). Therefore, it can be suggested that the developing anatomy of younger children plays a large role in the chances of sustaining an injury while playing on the slide. Most slide manufacturers suggest children should be at least 5 before using slides on regular playgrounds. Some playgrounds include slides specifically designed for toddler age children and they should be used instead. The fact that younger children are still gaining muscle mass and bone density makes injuries particularly dangerous to them.

            Playgrounds are usually considered to be incredibly fun for children and good for physical activity and anatomy development. However, the chances of sustaining even a minor injury while playing on slides is rather high. The most common body parts that receive injury are the face and upper extremities (Alkon, 1252). Therefore, the joints and muscles of the shoulders and arms are at risk for receiving bumps and bruises while going down slides correctly. However, when slides are not used properly, the anatomy of shoulder joints and arm muscles can receive fractures, breaks, overextensions or sprains. In order to preserve the integrity of growing children, there are several things adults can do to help protect children from hurting themselves while on slides.

            Proper supervision is the most important way to eliminate the chances of a child receiving an injury to joints and muscles. Adults must make sure that children are using slides properly by remaining seated, going down feet first and not changing positions while actually going down the slide. Limiting the number of children on the playground at a time can also significantly reduce the chances of injury. This is because there would be fewer children on the slide at any given time which obviously reduces the chances of injury because of having too many children on the slide at a time (Alkon, 1253). The joints and muscles of the anatomy of a growing child are too important to not take the necessary precautions to ensure safety while playing on the slide. Major injuries can result in growth delays of important joints and muscles children need to develop properly. Identifying the risk factors associated with injuries on slides can enable adult supervisors to understand the potential dangers of playing on the slide. In addition, adult supervisors should know and understand the developmental milestones of children with regard to their anatomical development in order to maximize the amount of protection provided to children as they play on slides. Finally, finding a balance between ensuring the safety of children on the slides and allowing children the freedom to engage in physical and social activity is a must (Alkon, 1252). When this balance is achieved, children can be free to slide and have fun without facing the potential of suffering from major injuries such as concussions, fractures, dislocations, sprains and lacerations.

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