Each year, nearly 100,000 Americans hurt themselves on trampolines — most of them children. Although this beloved backyard pastime is thought to be a fun way for both kids and adults to get some exercise, release energy and reach for the stars, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents to keep their kids off trampolines, both at home and in trampoline parks.
A study performed by the AAP found that more than 3,000 hospitalizations per year are attributed to trampoline-related injuries, with most — up to 75 percent — occurring when multiple people are on the trampoline. Between 27 and 39 percent of injuries happen when jumpers fall off the trampoline, whereas most others occur on the trampoline's bouncy mat surface.
Dr. Vicki Anvari, an emergency medicine specialist with Sharp Coronado Hospital, recently answered a few questions about trampoline use, the injuries she sees and her advice for parents on whether to let their kids jump sky high.
Do you agree with the AAP that kids and adults should stay off trampolines?
I agree with the AAP recommendations. However, I do not think the public is heeding them. I actually think trampoline usage is increasing. I see recreational facilities popping up and know of several families with trampolines in their backyard. The fact that the Olympics include trampoline events has influenced our use of trampolines. I think the public is generally unaware of the dangers of recreational trampoline usage and believe there should be more public service information disseminated regarding this. Trampolines are not toys.
What type of trampoline-related injuries do you see in the emergency department?
The most common are limb injuries such as wrist fractures, ankle sprains, contusions and the like. Occasionally we see head and neck injuries, too, which have potential serious consequences such as paralysis or death. Most injuries occur with children, because in general, they are the ones that spend the most time on the trampoline. However, adult injuries do occur as well.
Unfortunately, even my own family has experience with trampoline injuries. My children, who were ages 5 and 2 at the time, snuck onto the neighbor's trampoline together — against our family rules. My older daughter fell onto our younger daughter, and the little one broke her leg. I had to carry around a toddler with a full-leg cast for six weeks. Even I had an injury when I was 12 on a neighbor's trampoline. I did a flip, landed awkwardly and broke my front tooth.
Are there ways to make trampolines safer if people are determined to continue using them?
There is no way to make a trampoline completely safe and still be a trampoline. However, there are ways to decrease the risk to the user if they are determined to use one:
- Only use trampolines with protective padding and side netting to prevent falls
- All users should take a safety course prior to using a trampoline
- Allow no more than one person on the trampoline at any time
- Supervise use at all times
- Forbid "tricks," such as somersaults or flips
- Use a removable ladder/entry so that kids cannot sneak on unsupervised
- Do not allow foreign objects on the trampoline, such as toys, jump ropes, water balloons, etc.
While I do think trampolines are fun, I do not think they are safe and they should not be marketed for children. This opinion comes from a personal as well as an educated medical professional perspective.
For the media: To talk with a doctor about trampoline safety, contact Senior Public Relations Specialist Erica Carlson at firstname.lastname@example.org.