Keeping Kids Safe: 3 Hidden Dangers from a Musculoskeletal Expert

As a parent, one of our primary concerns is keeping our kids healthy and happy.  We make sure they are eating right, having an active lifestyle and not getting too much screen time.   Surprisingly, there are a few common kid-behaviors that we as parents may often see our kids doing, without even realizing the potential danger.

SWINGING A CHILD BY THEIR ARMS: Picture the following scenarios:

  • Have you ever been playing the yard with your children and you grab onto their hands and swing them around in a circle? It’s a common thing that we do and kids love it.
  • You are shopping in a department store and your child sees something they really want and they take off for it. Your instinct, as a parent, may be to quickly grab their arm in order to catch them.
  • You are on a walk with your kids, but you’ve found that they have run off ahead of you. You are running to catch up when you see a car coming down the road so you quickly grab your child’s arm in order to protect them.

I’m sure we have all done one of these things at some point and to some extent, this may be a necessary risk, but it is a risk all the same.  Pulling a child abruptly by the arm or holding he/she up by his/her arms has the potential to cause radial head subluxation. Believe it or not, depending on the child, it may not take much force for this to happen. Also called Nursemaid’s elbow, this is common in children because their bones are still growing and have loose ligaments surrounding them.  A abruptly yank or pull could cause the annular ligament to slip over the round portion of the bone. According to KidsHealth.org this is most often seen in children between the ages of 1 and 4.

If your kids love to be swung around, something to consider is grabbing them under their shoulders instead or asking them pull up a little bit to create a slight bend in the elbow as they swing.  This muscle contraction will help protect their ligaments.  It’s a good idea however, not to engage in this behavior too often when your children are little.

THE “W” SIT:  Usually seen in toddlers, the “W” sit is when a child sits with bum resting on the ground between their legs, legs out to either side with both knees bent and their feet tucked under them. We may marvel at the fact that our kids can actually sit this way! Some kids prefer this position more than other and typically utilize it when playing on the floor. Moving in and out of this position for very short periods is not terrible, however, when the child is sitting in the “W” position for long periods, it can raise some concern.

RISKS:

  • Sitting in this position for long periods puts extra strain on the hips joints and ligaments which can lead to an increase risk for hip dislocation as the child grows.
  • If the child is prone to tight muscles, “W” sitting can cause an increase in muscle tightness in the hips, knees, and ankles.
  • The wide sitting stance of this position also makes it easier to keep the body in an upright position. This leads to decreased core engagement / strength of the abdominals.
  • A little-known potential side-effect of this positioning is its effect on hand preference. As noted, children have a lot more trunk control when “W” sitting which makes it easier for children to pick up items with either hand. You normally wouldn’t think anything of this. However, it can have an effect later when the child is learning to write.

In my case joint laxity and loose ligaments runs in the family, so when I saw my 18-month old daughter starting to sit in this position for long periods, I immediately corrected her. I simply would lift her up and put her into a better position that still allowed to play. For example, I would lay her on her stomach to color, or have her sitting with her legs stretched out and a toy between her legs.

TOE WALKING:  Toe walking, when the child walks on their toes or the balls of their feet, is very common in children that are learning to walk.  Typically, it is not something that should cause concern, however, according to Mayo Clinic, it should raise some concern when the child is still toe walking after the age of 2 years. Possible causes for kids to continue toe walking past the age of 2 include:

  1. Tight Achilles Tendon– this is the tendon in the back of the lower leg that attaches to the heel.
  2. Cerebral Palsy– this is a disorder of movement that affects muscles tone
  3. Muscular Dystrophy – this is a genetic disease in which the muscle fibers are prone to damage and weakening over time
  4. Autism– toe walking has been linked to this spectrum disorder

Toe walking does not necessarily mean that your child has one of the conditions listed above, however should this behavior continue past 2 years old, it is a good idea to ask your doctor about it.

Well there you have it, maybe you’ve seen these behaviors in your kids and maybe you haven’t, but either way, you are now a little more prepared to keep young kids safe!

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