During the summer, given no school, longer days, and occasionally less supervision, children and adolescents will inevitably sustain injuries. As orthopedic surgeons, we see many bumps and bruises, sprains, torn ligaments, and fractures resulting from falls on the playground, sporting activity on the court, ice, or field, and increasingly from bicycles and skateboards. Fortunately, most of these injuries do not require surgery, but in the growing child should be evaluated and treated to avoid any long-term issues with growth or limb deformity.

The risk of injury

This year presents special challenges due to coronavirus. Parents are finding limited options for activities like day and overnight camps and team sports, and that may lead to more unsupervised time for children. Extra time should be set aside to plan activities for children taking the appropriate safety measures into consideration to avoid the risk of injuries.

Certainly, there are activities and locations we see as a cause of frequent injury. For smaller children at the playgrounds, the monkey bars, slide, and swings often lead to falls. Backyard trampolines, bounce houses, home play sets or obstacle courses have proven to be a frequent cause of visits to the office and emergency room for children of all ages.

More children are playing in the streets on their bicycles, scooters, and skateboards, making themselves vulnerable to unaware or distracted drivers. Other activities such as riding dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), and other motorized vehicles can cause more significant injuries. Specifically, motorized dirt bikes and four-wheelers carry a significant risk due to their weight and the amount of energy needed to operate those vehicles.

Parents should be aware of the risk, and whether it is legal to operate such vehicles. While great fun, they all present opportunity for harm, including fractures, ligament tears, concussions, and possible life-threatening injury.   

Safety tips for parents

Here are some safety tips that can help your children potentially avoid injury.

  • Children climbing on playground equipment should always be carefully watched or spotted. It is especially important younger children are closely supervised, because they may lack balance, coordination and occasionally the necessary strength. Extra attention is required when they are climbing monkey bars or playing on a trampoline.
  • Avoid multiple children on a trampoline as this leads to the "ping-pong ball” effect, whereby kids are colliding with each other.  
  • Appropriate protective equipment should always be worn when riding motorized vehicles such as dirt bikes, four-wheelers, as well as bicycles and skateboards. Most important is using a helmet.  
  • Prior to any exercise or athletic activity, proper stretching is essential to prevent sprains and ligament injuries. Maintaining appropriate hydration, especially on hot days, will help ward off heat related illness.  

Treating Injuries

For simple abrasions, lacerations, and bruises, these can be treated at home with ice, rest, simple bandaging, and elevation. Anti-inflammatories are often helpful for pain control. In the event an injury results in significant pain, deep laceration, limb deformity or fracture, immediate medical attention is recommended in the office or, in some cases, the emergency room.

For deeper lacerations or puncture wounds, care may require local irrigation and sutures. However, sometimes a formal cleaning and exploration in the operating room to investigate for more extensive damage may be required. Suspected fractures and obvious limb deformity may well require bracing and casting, manipulation to improve the alignment of the bone, and in certain instances, operative treatment.

We want to reassure you that safety is our top priority.  Our outpatient offices, hospital emergency departments, and operating rooms all adhere to strict guidelines for infection prevention amidst the coronavirus pandemic. If medical attention is warranted for an injury, please do not delay getting care.

Although we stress injury prevention, accidents do happen, and we are here for you. Learn more about us on our website. For additional articles on children’s health and safety, visit the Growing section of our Lifespan Living health and wellness blog.

Jonathan Schiller, MD

Jonathan Schiller, MD

Dr. Jonathan Schiller is an orthopedic surgeon with the Lifespan Orthopedics Institute specializing in pediatric orthopedics, including pediatric fracture care, limb deformity and lengthening, and hip problems in children, adolescents, and young adults.