Ask a group of parents if they let their children jump on a home trampoline, and you’re sure to start a heated discussion.
Trampolines are repeatedly at the center of controversy for injuries and accidents. A study in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics reported that trampolines caused over 1 million emergency room visits between 2002 and 2011, with 95 percent of injuries occurring at home.
Since trampolining became an Olympic sport in 2000, home trampolines have become increasingly popular. Unfortunately, while professional athletes make flipping through the air look surprisingly easy, children jumping on home trampolines are in a considerable amount of danger. The Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics reported that trampolines caused over 1 million E.R. visits between 2002 and 2011 — a staggering statistic. 95 percent of these injuries occurred at home.
Dr. Shane Frazier, orthopedic specialist at the Central Utah Clinic Hand, Wrist and Elbow Center in Provo, treats trampoline-related injuries on a regular basis.
“Yesterday, I took care of a young patient who fell off a trampoline and had to go to the emergency room,” he shared. “Multiple X-rays confirmed my suspicions: the 14-year-old boy had a broken arm. Unfortunately, the break was so severe that a normal setting and cast wouldn’t heal properly. He had to go into surgery.”
While surgery isn’t pleasant, Dr. Frazier explained that the outcome could have been more grim under difference circumstances.
“My patient had been jumping on a trampoline, trying to do a trick when he fell off, landing on his arm,” Dr. Frazier said. “Honestly, I consider him lucky. His injuries could have been even worse if he had landed on his back or his neck.”
So are trampoline-related injuries preventable?
There are two schools of thought when it comes to trampoline precautions. The first comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which argues that doctors should discourage parents and children from participating in any sort of recreational trampoline use. According to a statement on its website, the AAP believes that the risk is too great, citing that studies have not proved that netting, padding or even adult supervision help to prevent injuries.
On the other hand, the Academy of American Orthopedic Surgeons has a more generous recommendation, advising parents to take precaution rather than avoid trampolines altogether. In any situation, whether the trampoline activities are competitive or just for fun, the AAOS recommends that adults carefully supervise children. Additionally, allowing only one child on the trampoline at a time dramatically decreases the risk of injury.
Many families have fond memories of jumping on the trampoline and the thought of getting rid of it altogether isn’t an option. In the spirit of caution, here are some other tips to maintaining a safe trampoline environment at home:
1. Take Turns. Two out of three trampoline injuries happen when there were more than two children jumping at the same time, so only allowing one little froggy at a time significantly cuts chances of someone getting hurt.
2. Don’t Mix Ages. Keep younger kids and older kids separate around a trampoline. Children under 6 are most susceptible to injuries because of their poor coordination, but statistics also show that the older a person gets, the more likely he or she is to sustain severe injuries, like concussions and spinal damage. Plus, if a larger child bounces at the same time as a smaller child, the smaller of the two will have a much harder time balancing and staying in control.
3. Go in Ground. Jumping on a trampoline as high as 4 feet off the ground means a higher fall and greater risk of injury.
4. Use Proper Equipment. Make sure you have a harness or proper equipment for any tricks, especially if your child is a daredevil with little fear of heights. Attempted flips and somersaults can lead to neck injuries, so also consider lessons at a local gym when it comes to those more dangerous tricks.
5. Make it a Family Affair. Turn trampolining into a family event to ensure adult supervision. Most trampoline-related injuries happen at home, unsupervised, so keeping a watchful eye may help to prevent injury.
6. Inspect Your Equipment. Check regularly to make sure the pad is covering the trampoline’s metal springs. Pads do wear out, especially when the equipment is kept outdoors. Try marking a reminder on your calendar to examine the pads once a month.
7. Read Your Insurance Policy. Double-check your homeowner’s insurance policy. Some policy rates will increase if you own a trampoline. It’s up to you if the inflated rate is worth it. Also, some insurance policies will not cover trampoline injuries to other children on your property.
Trampolines can become the villains of outdoor activities; however, it is important to remember that there are risks with all types of physical activity. “I see a large number of injuries from bicycles, monkey bars, even video games,” Dr. Frazier said.
Jumping on a trampoline is excellent exercise and a great way to make sure kids get outside. Stay attentive, encourage your children to be cautious, and, above all, enjoy that fresh air.