14 May 2011

Monkeying Around

I was recently asked by a colleague to write a post on the hazards of trampolines. I may get to that eventually, but first I'd like to address a more pressing evil lurking in each and every school yard in America: monkey bars. Now the writers at Moving Smart would like you to believe that playground activities such as the monkey bars provide children not only with enjoyment but also form the basis for the development of essential gross motor skills. That very well may be. But these benefits are difficult to enjoy whilst falling to the ground. Emmaline learned that this morning when she escaped from her crib for the first time.

You see, in medicine as in life things seem to come in uncanny groupings, not always in threes exactly but often so. It so happens I've seen a lot of monkey bar injuries lately. Not one, not two, not even three, but so very many. McCoy said, "It never rains but it pours." To which Kirk replied, "As a physician you of all people should appreciate the danger of reopening old wounds."

And wound are exactly what I'm referring to. Not bumps and bruises. Not the occasional skinned knee. Monkey bars strike deeper, harder. A rhyme, perhaps, to illustrate my point?

The days of carefree youth have passed,
We hoped that they would last and last.

"Anything is possible if you try."
We told them they could reach the sky
But it was the other way around,
When they came tumbling to the ground.
Was it her fault she could not hold on tight?
Was he to blame for losing the fight?
For gravity will always win

Unlike ligaments, bones, and skin.
From the monkey bars we're meant to trace
Their explosion of agility and grace
They swing and hang with seeming ease
But we no longer live in trees.
Is it any wonder he fell down
And fractured his olecranon?
Or that she shattered her tibia and femur
While trying to dangle like a lemur.
No, better to stay with your feet down low
Since you will not have as far to go.
Better yet, why not simply stay in bed
And avoid the catastrophes others dread? 
The pillow's soft, the mattress wide.
What? You want to go outside?


  1. I have a very vivid childhood memory of falling off the monkeybars. I called for help but the adults ignored my cries as more background kids at play. The skin on my hands blistered and tore and I fell, hard. So hard I couldn't breathe and I landed on a tree root that was less than soft. I lay there unable to move or breathe or call for help, hands bleeding, I thought I was dying. Finally I could take a breath and started crying and vomiting. So screw the parents who look at me like I'm a helicopter parent when I spot my kids on playground equipment, I wish someone had been there to catch me.

  2. All parents face the dilemma of balancing their child's natural need to move with doing things safely. And when it comes to safety, parents MUST have the final call. After all, you know your child better than anyone else, and if you are not sure your child is ready for the monkeybars or any other piece of play equipment, let no one tell you otherwise.

    That said, children NEED the chance to stretch themselves -- muscles, mind, and character. So, if you're not comfortable with the idea of the playground, there are lots of other fun things you can do. In fact, at the end of our blog post you will find a few suggestions for building upper body strength while playing together right at home.

    Thanks, Meghan, for your thoughtful post, and all you are doing to keep our children happy and healthy.