Trampolines and Kids: Risky Business?
By Carol Church, Writer, Family Album
Reviewed by Suzanna Smith, PhD, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida
It seems like I see a trampoline in every other backyard these days, and often find kids jumping on one at parties. They always seem to be having a blast.
However, as fun as trampolines are, they also can be dangerous. I know this from personal experience, as both of my children have been injured on trampolines in the past. In one case, my child was sidelined from PE and recess for about 10 weeks. Bummer!
Injuries Are Common
My family is certainly not alone. A 2012 advisory issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that there are more than 90,000 trampoline-related injuries per year in the U.S., making the device a very common cause of childhood injury. About three-quarters of these accidents occur when more than one person is jumping at a time. Smaller, younger bouncers are especially vulnerable; when bouncers differ in weight, the lighter bouncer is likely to come out the “loser.”
Many accidents also do occur when users fall off the trampoline. But while the trampoline industry has added some protections like netting and enclosures, these haven’t significantly reduced injuries.
The most common trampoline-related injury is an ankle sprain, but fractures are also quite common, especially among children under 6. Ten to 17% of trampoline injuries are to the vulnerable head and neck. Tragically, a very small percentage end in permanent neurological damage. Spinal injuries can occur during botched flips or somersaults.
AAP Recommends: No Home Use
Since trampolines are obviously appealing, what’s a parent to do? Due to trampolines’ poor safety record, the American Academy of Pediatrics has chosen to recommend that children use trampolines only as part of a structured gymnastics program–not for home recreation.
If You Do Let Them Bounce…
If you do decide to make an exception, be sure to allow only one child on at a time. Be especially careful to avoid situations where one bouncer is much heavier than another! Prohibit somersaults and flips, make sure all equipment is in good condition, and actively supervise. (However, one-third to one-half of trampoline injuries occur while adults are directly supervising, perhaps in part because parents do not know or follow safety guidelines.)
If you choose to purchase a trampoline for your home, be aware that many homeowners’ insurance companies exclude trampolines due to their known risks. This can mean that they will not pay benefits to anyone injured on your trampoline, or it can mean that they will drop your coverage if they discover you have one. In some cases, companies will agree to cover you if you add safety features.
If your child is really drawn to trampolining, one option is to have him or her take gymnastics lessons at a facility where trained coaches teach trampoline. This is a fun and exciting option–and a much safer way to enjoy bouncing.
Trampoline Safety Tips–from Nationwide Insurance
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2012). Trampoline safety in childhood and adolescence. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1542/peds.2012-2082
(Originally published in a slightly different form as: Church, C. (2012). Trampoline safety. [Radio broadcast episode]. Family Album Radio. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida.)