Call me a spoilsport and a worrywart, but so far as I know, neither of my kids has ever jumped on a trampoline.
That’s what happens when your parents are a health writer and an insurance-defense lawyer. My husband and I are both are keenly aware that, fun as it looks to bounce on a backyard tramp, the risk of serious injury is too great for our comfort.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is on our side. In a policy statement published Monday morning in the journal Pediatrics, the AAP reviews the research regarding home trampoline use and reaffirms its stance against that practice. From the paper’s blunt conclusion: “Pediatricians should counsel their patients and families against recreational trampoline use and explain that current data indicate safety measures have not significantly reduced injury rates and that catastrophic injuries do occur.”
The paper says that the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) estimates that nearly 98,000 trampoline-related injuries, leading to 3,100 hospitalizations, occurred in the U.S., in 2009. While the rate of reported injuries from home trampoline use has declined since its peak in 2004 (four years after trampoline was made an Olympic event), the severity of trampoline-related injuries remains worrisome.
While most injuries are sprains (mostly ankle sprains), strained muscles and bruises, broken bones do occur – as do serious injuries to the head and neck.
Most injuries – 75 percent -- occur when more than one child is using the trampoline at once, and smaller children are at heightened risk of injury when jumping with heavier kids. Failed flips and somersaults are responsible for many injuries, particularly to the head and neck, and falls from the trampoline cause up to 39 percent of injuries. It’s unclear what role parental supervision makes in warding off injury, as many accidents took place when an adult was reportedly present.
While manufacturers have made strides toward improving trampoline safety by adding padding, providing safe-use instructions and no longer including ladders that make it easier for small children to gain unsupervised access to the equipment, the paper says it’s not clear whether those changes – or the use of netting or other enclosures -- have had much impact on injury rates. Plus, the paper notes, those improvements have coincided with decreases in the quality of the materials that trampolines are made of.
The paper further notes that trampoline parks should be regarded with the same caution as home trampolines and that there’s not enough data about structured trampoline training programs to yet gauge their safety.
For those who still insist on having home trampolines, the AAP suggests checking your insurance coverage, installing the equipment on a level surface, and making sure an adult is always actively supervising and enforcing safety rules.