School is out, the weather is warm, and outdoor activities are in full swing. Summertime is a fun time for most children, but it’s also a season when New York-area hospitals see a spike in the number of kids who suffer fractures or concussions.
A fracture, which is a partial or complete break in a bone, can occur anywhere on the body. The most common sites are the wrist, elbow, and collarbone, as well as the ankle and femur (thighbone). A concussion is a type of brain injury that occurs from a blow to the head or body.
Any activity children participate in can lead to injuries: playing outside, swinging, climbing the monkey bars, jumping on trampolines, playing in bouncy castles. Falls and fractures are common in activities involving speed, like skateboarding, bicycling, or riding a scooter. Fireworks and climbing trees are a common cause of many summer injuries, too. At Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, we see many of these injuries every summer, in addition to injuries that might not be as obvious to parents. Oftentimes, youth who engage in activities such as contact sports or bicycling, or those who simply have a collision or fall when playing, might sustain a concussion, and may need to be seen by a specialist at our Concussion Center.
Of course, it’s impractical for children to avoid all of these activities. Kids will be kids, and outdoor recreation is beneficial to children’s physical, mental, and emotional health. That’s why it is important to take reasonable precautions to increase their safety as they enjoy their summer:
Wear proper protective equipment. Helmets should always be worn for activities like bike riding and skateboarding, as well as for contact sports like football. When skateboarding, kids should be wearing elbow and kneepads, too.
Pay attention to playground surfaces. Rather than concrete, asphalt, or hard packed dirt, they should be made out of softer surfaces like shredded rubber or wood chips. These can better absorb the impact of a fall and are less likely to cause injuries.
Build strength and endurance. Being in proper physical condition is important for preventing injuries when participating in sports. Receiving appropriate instruction from athletic trainers is always recommended.
Always supervise kids around fireworks to prevent explosion injuries, which are common in the hands.
You can take steps to lessen the chances of broken bones and concussions, but you can’t avoid the risk altogether. Serious injuries may still occur as kids participate in typical summer activities. If your child has suffered a head injury or if an injury has caused pain out of proportion to a regular knock or “boo boo”:
• Immobilize the child.
• Do not move an affected limb or joint.
• Put ice on swollen areas.
• Call your doctor’s office for advice or go to the emergency room for evaluation by a physician.
Sometimes, children require specialist evaluation and treatment because their bones are still growing. For example, if the wrist looks obviously deformed, you can assume that would require a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. If you’re in doubt about the seriousness of an injury, there is no harm in coming to the ER to make sure everything is okay. Emergency room doctors are very good at distinguishing what needs to be seen by a specialist and what doesn’t.
Here’s to a happy, healthy and safe summer!