Anyone who speaks out against recreational trampoline use by kids quickly runs into one major obstacle: the darn things are a lot of fun. Bouncing high in the air, that stomach-flipping weightless sensation, the joy of conking heads with the other three kids boinging along with you…ah, childhood memories!
But for too many children those childhood memories include casts, crutches, and stitches–even hospital stays, surgery, and permanent neurologic damage. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued a statement strongly encouraging parents to keep their kids away from trampolines.
I know, I know… Just one more worry-wart, nanny-state, killjoy thing, you say. We all bounced on them, didn’t we? Why can’t the pediatricians just let kids be kids? They should all move to Canada…
Well, yes, I did occasionally play (injury-free) on a trampoline when I was a kid, and no one’s saying your children can’t. But before you set the kids a-boinging in the back yard, consider these facts:
More than 90,000 kids a year end up in doctors offices or ERs with trampoline injuries.
- Of these, at least a third involve fractures or dislocations of the arms or legs, usually from falls.
- More than 10,000 children suffer head and neck injuries, typically from falls or failed flips and somersaults.
- About 4,000 kids a year end up with permanent neurologic damage.
Three-quarters of the injuries occur when more than one child is on the trampoline, especially when small children and larger children are on at the same time.
- Children 6 years old or younger are 14 times more likely to be injured than larger kids in a shared-trampoline situation.
But what about all the safety equipment, like netting and padding and such? Doesn’t that protect them?
The safety netting is often flimsy, poorly positioned, and kids often get hurt climbing on it. The pads over the frame and springs can deteriorate rapidly. And no one has shown that these make any difference at all–other than to give everyone a false sense of security.
And it is true of trampolines, like so many other modern products, that they don’t build ‘em like they used to. The AAP report calls out the trampoline industry for making crummier units these days. Here’s one indication of worsening construction standards: the warranty on a new trampoline was 10 years in 1989. It’s five years today.
So, my advice: Ditch the trampoline. If parents absolutely can’t bear to part with it, adult supervision is critical. Set the unit up as close to the ground as possible, away from trees, fountains, family heirlooms, cliff edges, etc. Make a one-kid-at-a-time limit, and no flips or somersaults.
That’s a lot of supervision, and even then there are no guarantees…
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Photo credits: Roxnstix, Sue Waters, and Pixabay.