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Are outdoor playgrounds the real culprit for elbow fractures in children? A lesson learned from COVID-19 sanitary measures.

BACKGROUND: The association between elbow fractures and outdoor playgrounds has always been anecdotal. We sought to determine the impact of closing outdoor playgrounds and other play areas during the COVID-19 lockdown on elbow fractures in a pediatric population.

METHODS: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of all elbow fractures from a single pediatric referral hospital between 2016 and 2020 for the months of April and May. The months chosen corresponded to the COVID-19 lockdown during which outdoor playgrounds were closed. Inclusion criteria were elbow fracture diagnosis based on radiography and age younger than 18 years. Fracture type, where the injury occurred and the mechanism of injury were recorded.

RESULTS: A total of 370 fractures were reported, with an average of 83 (95% confidence interval [CI] 83-84) per year for 2016-19 and only 36 recorded in 2020. The average annual number of fractures before 2020 was 17 (95% CI 16-17) for schools, and 33 (95% CI 31-34) for outdoor playgrounds, including 22 (95% CI 21-24) falls from playground structures. No fracture was reported in schools in 2020, and only 3 were reported from outdoor playgrounds (including 1 associated with falling from playground structures).

CONCLUSION: We found an association between elbow fractures in a pediatric population and outdoor playground accessibility, but also with indoor public locations. Our findings emphasize the importance of safety measures in those facilities.

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