Parents have been springing up to me asking me what they need to worry about if their child jumps on a trampoline. Well let me see if I can bounce off a few safety tips about trampolines.
Each year there are almost 250,000 trampoline injuries in this country that end up in emergency departments, with more than 75% of those injured being children under 15 years of age. Injuries appear to occur with equal frequency whether the trampoline is full size or tiny (meaning 3 feet in diameter).
What kind of injuries are we talking about? Minor injuries are quite common, such as sprains and strains of muscles and ligaments, as well as major dislocations and fractures. The most serious include broken necks, spinal cord injuries, and disabling head trauma resulting in paralysis or even death.
How do injuries occur? They can happen after colliding with another person, landing improperly while jumping or doing stunts, falling or jumping off, or falling onto the springs or frame. The vast majority of trampoline injuries occur on trampolines set up in the home, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend that trampolines be purchased for home use indoors or outdoors, and trampolines should not be part of routine physical education classes or used on outdoor playgrounds as play equipment.
Ideally, trampolines should be used under the direct supervision of physical therapists, athletic trainers, or other appropriately trained individuals for specific medical conditions, such as conditioning or rehab of injuries or in supervised sports programs such as gymnastics and diving.
If you still wish to have a home trampoline or discover that your child wants to use one at a friend’s house, and you don’t want your child to become a trampoline injury statistic, I have some suggestions:
• Inspect the trampoline (or have the parents who own the trampoline inspect it) before each use to make sure the frame padding is correctly and securely positioned and that there are no worn, defective, or missing parts.
• Set some ground rules that only one person should be on a trampoline at a time and always make sure you or another adult is present to supervise when the trampoline is in use.
• No one should jump on or off the trampoline.
• Somersaults should be forbidden since a landing on the head or neck could result in paralysis.
• Make sure the trampoline being used has shock-absorbing pads that cover the springs, the hook and the frame, and make sure it is set up away from other structures, trees, and play areas.
• The surface around the trampoline should be made of impact-absorbing material.
• No child under 6 should use a trampoline that is over 20 inches tall off the ground.
• The trampoline should be secured and inaccessible to children when not in use and an adult is not present.
Hopefully tips like this will jump up at you when it comes to recognizing the dangers of home trampoline use.
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at University of Vermont Children’s Hospital at the University of Vermont Medical Center and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at http://www.uvmhealth.org/firstwithkids.