Treating Playground Injuries With Physical Therapy

Sarah Hasbrouck, PT and Brenna Tainsh, PT

Each year, more than 20,000 children under the age of 14 are treated at emergency departments for playground injuries. These injuries can quickly impact your family’s plans: a child may have a cast due to a broken bone, and won’t be able to swim. Or concussion symptoms may mean skipping camp.

Some of these injuries could warrant a physical therapy evaluation to help with recovery. Physical therapy can help some common playground injuries, including:

Fractures from falls

After a fall, your child may have an injury, such as broken a leg, which requires a cast for several weeks. Once the cast is removed, they may have weakness, decreased range of motion, poor balance, and a fear of walking or standing on that leg.

A physical therapist (PT) will help your child understand how much weight they’re allowed to place on their injured leg and teach them how to use a walker or crutches. A PT who specializes in care for children can also help educate you and your child on safe, appropriate, and fun exercises to improve strength, balance, and range of motion. They can also provide you with activities to carry over at home. By collaborating with your child’s physician, the PT will gradually increase your child’s activity. They’ll progress from walking with crutches or a walker, back to running and skipping in no time!

Concussions

If your child fell off a swing and hit their head on the ground, this may result in a concussion, a serious condition that requires immediate attention. Afterwards, your child may experience physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms including headache, dizziness, fatigue, and problems with vision and balance.

A PT can help develop a plan for your child that includes rest, recovery, and a gradual return to activity. Throughout physical therapy, they may participate in activities to improve balance and restore strength and endurance. This is usually needed after prolonged rest or a period of reduced activity. Once symptoms have resolved, a PT will help your child return to a normal, active daily routine.

Strains and sprains

If your child tripped and twisted an ankle while running up the playground stairs and is still complaining of pain a few weeks later, this could be a common ankle sprain. A PT may notice that their ankle range of motion is limited, the surrounding muscles are weak, and they have trouble standing on one foot. The PT can teach them exercises to improve these symptoms to get them back on the playground quickly.

An individualized treatment plan with specific goals is part of any pediatric physical therapy assessment. This plan includes a progression of exercises and activities specifically tailored to your child’s needs, helping to decrease recovery time and get your child back to their favorite activities. If your child has suffered one of the injuries described above, or is unable to participate in their home or community activities following an injury, talk to your family pediatrician about a referral for physical therapy.

Visit us online for more information on physical therapy and rehabilitation services at Lifespan.

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