By Dr. Derya Caglar

Trampolines provide huge fun for kids and adults of all ages. Initially engineered as a tool for gymnasts and subsequently used in military training, these days many families enjoy jumping in the backyard while others spend the afternoon at a trampoline park. You get exercise and it’s a great outlet for high energy kids. So why are health experts increasingly recommending families avoid recreational trampoline use[1]? And is avoiding trampoline use altogether the only way to keep your family safe?

Injuries from trampolines accounted for approximately 100,000 emergency department visits per year between 2002 and 2014, costing $1 billion. [2] Children are the most frequent users of trampolines, and thus suffer the bulk of all injuries. Most injuries tend to happen when more than one person jumps together, with the risk of an injury increasing exponentially as the number of simultaneous jumpers increases. The youngest jumpers, under the age of 6 years, are at the highest risk of injury, though older jumpers tend to have more serious injuries. More than 95% of all injuries occur at home, despite an AAP warning against home trampoline use in 2012[1].

The vast majority of injuries are musculoskeletal, mainly involve the upper and lower extremities, with bruises, broken bones, and ankle and knee sprains being the most common. While this accounts for most injuries, serious injuries can also occur. Spine and neck injuries can lead to paralysis, weakness, and even death. 0.5% of all trampoline injuries (and while that sounds small, that’s 1 in 200) lead to permanent neurologic damage. In many cases, jumpers were doing somersaults or flips and landed poorly. Any neck or back pain after a trampoline injury should be immediately evaluated for possible neurologic damage. This is particularly important if jumpers are experiencing any weakness or sensory changes in their arms or hands.

In an effort to make trampolines safer, manufacturers have encouraged the use of netting to enclose jumpers, and padding to cover springs and other hard structures. Studies, however, have not shown any decrease in injuries with these measures [2]. Some argue that these measures may, in fact, lead to riskier behavior due to a false sense of security. They may also be improperly installed or less helpful as they are worn down through use.

Despite recommendations to avoid trampoline use, many families choose to jump. If children are going to use trampolines, there are things you can do to decrease the risk of injury.

  • Make sure jumpers are age 6 and older. 
  • The equipment should be dry.
  • Trampolines should be regularly inspected for evidence of wear and tear and should have adequate, properly installed protective padding.
  • Equipment should be placed on level ground away from trees or other overhanging structures, and shouldn’t be placed on hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt.
  • Any damaged parts should be repaired or replaced before use.
  • Children should only jump one at a time and always under constant adult supervision.
  • Jumpers should avoid flips and somersaults, and should never jump off or use other equipment ( ie ride bicycles) on the trampoline.

In addition to these safety measures, as an added precaution, families should also review home insurance policies as most do not cover injuries related to trampoline use. A separate rider may be needed to provide adequate coverage.

Though trampolines can provide endless entertainment for children, families should consider the risks and benefits of their use and if they choose to keep jumping, use every measure available to decrease the likelihood of injury.

References

[1] Briskin S, LaBotz M; Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, American Academy of Pediatrics. Trampoline safety in childhood and adolescence. Pediatrics. 2012;130(4):774–779pmid:23008455

[2] Loder RT, Schultz W, Sabatino M. Fractures from trampolines: results from a national database, 2002 to 2011. J Pediatr Orthop. 2014;34(7):683–690pmid:24686299

 

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