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Why you should never swing a child by the arms

Children up to the age of four are most prone to nursemaid's elbow

Kashmira Gander
Thursday 13 October 2016 10:05 BST

Swinging a child by the arms may seem like harmless fun, but experts have warned that the activity could cause painful injuries.

Pre-school children, aged between one to four, have loser ligaments and less developed bones, meaning they are vulnerable to a condition known as "nursemaid’s" or "pulled" elbow.

As children grow up, their bodies become less prone to the injury, according to the Kids Health website run by the non-profit Nemours Foundation.

The elbow connects the upper and lower arm bones, and the ligaments that surround the radial head can be loose in pre-schoolers. Nursemaid's elbow is caused when the ligaments slip or tear, sometimes with a relatively small amount of force.

The injury can also be caused by pulling a child up by the hands; grabbing their arm too quickly and jerking the arm; rolling over in bed awkwardly; or falls.

While the injury is painful, it does not generally cause long-term damage but does warrant a trip to Accident and Emergency.

Orthopaedic surgeon Amer Khan of Doctify said: “Any particularly excessive sudden traction force to the upper limb may potentially cause injury to the joints in the upper limb.

"In my experience I have seen very little incidences of direct injury to the shoulder and elbow joint as a result of children swinging by their hands holding onto adults. However it is obvious that parents or guardians need to exercise common sense and care when playing with children."

However, Adam Pandit, Consultant Shoulder and Elbow Surgeon at Spire Thames Valley in Slough, assured parents: "Injuries to other joints are uncommon just from swinging a child by the arms."

"You can’t wrap your children in cotton wool but you can take greater care when playing with them in a sort of ‘rough and tumble’ sort of way - be aware that all their joints are still forming so anything that puts extra pressure on them can have a detrimental effect," he told The Independent.

Writer Jenny Halteman recently wrote of how a family trip to see Santa ended in A&E when a family friend picked up her three-year-old daughter and span her by the arms.

“At first, all seemed fine until she tried to move her arm. She began wailing uncontrollably. ‘I CAN’T MOVE MY ARM!’ Her frightful screaming caught the attention of everyone else in line,” she wrote on Babble.

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