Should a 4 year old with a new cast be allowed in gym class?
February 6, 2011 9:21 PM   Subscribe

One of my 4-year old students broke his arm on Saturday, and is now in a cast. The parents, and school directors, are encouraging him to still come to gym class (which I teach), and play soccer and run around. Am I alone in thinking this is a bad idea?

So while most people were away over the weekend, the parent brought the 4 year old boy into the gym and allowed him to play on our zip line (without teacher supervision). He fell, and is now in a plaster cast, and sling. I do not know any further details about the break.

The new semester started today, and the father came back again and brought the boy to play in the gym. They were running around, playing soccer, rolling on the scooters, etc. His scheduled gym period is this afternoon, and my directors want him to participate in the gym class. I think that is a very bad idea, especially considering how recently the injury happened. (FWIW, our lesson for this week is gymnastics tumbling and rolls... he can NOT participate in the majority of the lesson, but they'll want me to allow him free-play or something)

Is this as bad of an idea as I think it is? I'm pretty certain my director is going to tell me it's "no big deal", and he'll "get bored" otherwise, so some hard facts on why it's not a good idea would be appreciated.
posted by hasna to Health & Fitness (20 answers total)
From what I've heard, the recent trend in post-injury rehab is to encourage as much activity as possible as early as possible-- within reason of course. For example, with the Giffords shooting, they moved her from the hospital to rehab as quickly as they could, and are even now having her walk around.

If taken to an extreme, having the kid avoid all physical activity would lead to a decrease in the strength of his muscles and bones, making it more likely he'll pick up another injury, IMO. I am not a doctor/physical therapist.
posted by Hither at 9:27 PM on February 6, 2011

IANAD - but when I was his age (well, say twice his age) I broke my writes at school.

I think it really depends what he broke, how it was broken, and how it was cast.

If it was a simple wrist fracture, no broken fingers or hand bones, and there is cast (starts below the elbow, full elbow movement), then he's probably fine doing gymnastics as long as he's not asked to hang form or put tension on his broken wrist.
As for risks of bumping into people when playing soccer and kicking a ball around - trust me, he has the advantage. A plaster cast is like really good armor. I took a few good spills off my bike and knocked one guy in the head really good when he was being a jerk - the cast got scrathced up a bit but no harm done.

I recall the doctor banned me from the gymnastic rings, climbing, high-bars, adn stuff like that... even when the cast came off and I was on a splint. Then, even for a number of weeks after that I was not supposed to climb in that way.

Breaks happen, kids heal fast.
The sling is just to keep his arm from getting tired from the plaster cast.
posted by TravellingDen at 9:30 PM on February 6, 2011

I don't think there are any "facts" as to why it's not a good idea. I suppose he could fall on it, but that could happen on the stairs as well. If you're worried about shaking the fracture loose or something, that's what the cast is for.
posted by rhizome at 9:30 PM on February 6, 2011

Long story short: Aside from extension/stretching in the case of my wrist injury, my arm was safer in that plaster cast than without it. its' like having an concrete shield.

Oh, plus you can always play the "it hurts can I skip" and get away with it. Win win.
posted by TravellingDen at 9:32 PM on February 6, 2011

I think you are justified on limiting his physical activity until provided with a note from the kid's doctor outlining what's acceptable. Or perhaps the parent could arrange for you to speak with staff at the doctor's office. Personally I think your gut is correct here; you shouldn't assume something is safe without some kind of evidence, and 'it'll be fine' doesn't cut it.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:37 PM on February 6, 2011 [5 favorites]

I can't comment on what the kid ought to be doing while recovering from the break, though I'd assume his parents are going with what they've been told on the medical front.

What I would worry about is how you're going to supervise him running around solo while you've got a class full of other 4-year-olds who need your attention. If you ask your director about anything related to this, I'd make it that.
posted by asperity at 9:40 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

When my 5yo broke his collarbone, the docs told us to do whatever he normally did. I said, "This is a 5yo boy." And they said that the idea is to return to normal activity. We stuck with everything but gymnastics.
posted by acoutu at 9:46 PM on February 6, 2011

I know a nine year old who broke her arm. She still was able to play in her soccer games, but she had to bubble wrap the cast first. (Presumably to protect the other players.)
posted by oceano at 9:49 PM on February 6, 2011

To me, the answer lies with the doctor who put the arm in the cast. If he is ok with it, I would be ok with it. If he is hesitant, I would avoid it. Not being a doctor and not knowing what this situation is specifically, when I broke my hand in middle school, I was allowed to play whatever I could with the cast on. I actually played a few games of ice hockey as well as dodge ball in gym and if I recall, what we called European handball. When a puck hit my cast once it did create the same sensation you get when hitting a baseball with a wooden bat on a cold day with no batting gloves on. My whole wrist vibrated and hurt for a good 60 seconds. But, I played on and there was no lasting effect.

Listen to the medical professional on this one.
posted by AugustWest at 9:57 PM on February 6, 2011

Man as long as he's not jumping from buildings and landing on his cast he should be fine. What's your rationale for making him sit out?

From what I understand, physical activity in other locations of the body actually encourage faster recovery in affected areas for both general health as well as neural reasons. For example, stimulating muscles and neural connections in the undamaged arm aids recovery and quickens rehabilitation of the other side of the body as the neurons for the side of the brain controlling the damaged side are partially affected when neurons for the side of the brain controlling the undamaged side due to the connections of the two halves through the corpus callosum.
posted by Anonymous at 11:35 PM on February 6, 2011

I broke my wrist 3 times as a kid, but never as young as your student. If it's just a typical break, the limiting factor should just be the his pain threshold. If doing something doesn't hurt, he'll be fine. If it hurts, let him dial it back. The worst thing that can happen is for him to fall on it again, and the cast should protect it.

I tried out for my high school basketball team with a cast on my arm. As long as the doctors say it's ok, I think keeping him active is a great idea.
posted by auto-correct at 11:54 PM on February 6, 2011

I broke my arm in three places when I was five. I had a cast on for my sixth birthday. The doctor said the only activity I couldn't participate in was swimming, due to the plaster cast.

When the doctor said this, in front of my dad, and my response was, "I can't go swimming!!?" followed by loads of tears, my dad's face said, "That's just not going to work." I swam all summer long with my broken arm wrapped very tightly in two layers of plastic bags.

I rode my bike one handed. I ran through the woods. I used all the usual playground equipment, even did the monkey bars with assistance.

I think your student is fine to do nearly everything as usual ---- I would say rope climbing is probably not a good idea, but just about everything else I can think of that a four year old would do in a gym class should be more than okay.
posted by zizzle at 3:02 AM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

If the doctors gave consent, then you could be standing in the way of his recovery if you don't let him play.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:45 AM on February 7, 2011

I would get a signed doctor's note before allowing him back. If anyone gives you a hard time point out that it's in the kiddo's best interest to know the specifics of what he can and can't do.
posted by corey flood at 6:22 AM on February 7, 2011

i have seen kids play league soccer with a cast wrapped in bubble wrap. THe bubble wrap was so they couldn't use their cast as a weapon, not to protect the cast.

I would probably want to see the doctors consent for guidance and liability but if they have the all clear, then i think you are good to go.
posted by domino at 6:24 AM on February 7, 2011

I broke my arm in first grade. Running around with that cast on my arm was the most empowered I'd ever been, 'cause the runt of the class now had a built-in weapon. So that's the only thing I'd worry about, he's carrying around a club. Other than that, heck yeah he should be doin' stuff.
posted by straw at 7:00 AM on February 7, 2011

He's fine. The point of the cast is to protect the arm. It does that job very well. The only concern I would have is about other kids getting bashed by it if they are engaged in contact sports. I would bubble wrap the cast as others have pointed out for this very reason.

Remember that he can participate without playing if he's having a bad day or playing too roughly with the other kids. He can be your chief whistle blower or your linesman or whatever. You don't need to exclude him just because he's got a cast.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:28 AM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

My mother broke both her elbows a couple of years ago, and they took the casts off and had her doing range-of-motion exercises inside of a week. If you're concerned, ask for a doctor's note, but on the face of this that doesn't seem unreasonable.
posted by KathrynT at 9:42 AM on February 7, 2011

ehh, I coach classes and teams. I hate parents sometimes. Asking that one child be left to his own devices while you try to run the class is down right stupid.

They are doubling you work load, a four year old with an injury needs to be supervised well during physical activity. You are being asked to teach two classes, the first one is a normal class, the second one is a watch to make sure he does not fuck up something class. He should not be allowed to have "free time" to do whatever he wants while you try to teach a very distracted class.

Here is the bottom line, you as a teacher are allowed to make judgement calls! If you have receptive administration, tell them your plan of action for this child and what YOU want to have done. If the doc has not cleared him for gym, ask that he forgoes gym until it heals.

The bigger issue to me is that a parent let a four year old ride a zip line unattended; seven or eight, yeah that would be alright, but four is really a bad idea.

Keep in mind you are being asked to baby sit and not coach.
posted by Felex at 11:02 AM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would want to see a doctor's note, and it would be especially helpful if it gave some guidance on what activities are okay and which are forbidden. I'm not a lawyer, but I'd worry that if something happened to the kid, that even if the parents said it was okay, they might sue. While things may well work out that the school is fully responsible financially for it, I wouldn't want the potential headache.
posted by elpea at 1:53 PM on February 7, 2011

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