Are Slip ‘n Slides safe for adults?

Who knew you could outgrow a sheet of wet plastic?

But it’s true: if you’re not a kid, there’s no slipping around the fact that you shouldn’t use the popular summer lawn toy, the Slip ‘n Slide.

Are Slip ‘n Slides safe for adults? - photo by Nancy J Price

Whether it’s due to the force from hitting the Slip ‘n Slide at the beginning, or crashing into something at the end (or along the way), these toys are made for kids, and can be really dangerous for adults.

To be more precise, Wham-O told us that for “safety reasons,” their slides are made specifically for children ages 5 to 12, who under 5 feet tall and under 110 pounds. So it’s not just grown-ups — bigger kids and many teens shouldn’t be slip slidin’ away.

This isn’t new information, but there are still a lot of grown-up kids out there who didn’t get the message.

Don’t try this at home

YouTube is filled with videos of questionable uses of Slip ‘n Slides, but it’s the permanence of some poor judgement calls that have caused alarm.

Due to multiple injury reports, way back in 1993, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a notice about the Slip ‘n Slide, which said in part:

Use by adults and teens has the potential to result in neck injury and paralysis. Because of their weight and height, adults and teenagers who dive onto the water slide may hit and abruptly stop in such a way that could cause permanent spinal cord injury, resulting in quadriplegia or paraplegia. The slider’s forward momentum drives the body into the neck and compresses the spinal cord.

Hard to believe that broken necks and spinal cord injuries — not to mention death — can result from something that looks so cute and colorful and harmless.

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True stories

In the early 1990s, a 37-year-old Californian named Bill Evans was left a quadriplegic after fracturing his neck using the Slip ‘n Slide. After a settlement with the toy’s manufacturer at the time, Kransco, Evans’ attorney wanted to issue a press release about the toy’s danger to for adults. But then “dire consequences” were promised if he did so… and the matter was dropped.

Unsurprisingly, not long after, a college student’s life changed drastically in 1998 after what was supposed to be some Slip ‘n Slide fun. A “devastating accident” left Bryon Riesch paralyzed from the chest down, with limited use of his arms. (A little over two and a half years later, he started the The Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation, with a goal to find a cure for paralysis.)

The issue of gag orders and threats of litigation aside, the issue is truly less of an issue of a product defect, and more a fact of physics. Colloquially stated, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall” — which is backed up by Newton’s second law of motion.

That means that no matter if you buy a slippery water toy in a package, or make a homemade version with a plastic tarp and a hose, the danger remains the same.

But f you’ve outgrown this kind of summertime fun, that probably means you’re big enough to do other things typical kids long for — like buying candy, staying up past midnight, and watching R-rated movies. See? There’s always a bright side.

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