Are Backyard Trampolines Safe?

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In the summertime, your children just want to play and you, as a parent, want to relax. Maybe you take the kids swimming on weekends, or you go over a friend’s house and they have a backyard trampoline. Or you want to check out the new trampoline park in town that’s gaining popularity. After all, 50 million Americans visit trampoline parks each year, so what’s the problem? While it can be super fun to bounce around on a trampoline — even as an adult — this toy carries some serious risks.

Below, we’ll go over the dangers of trampolines, the most common injuries, how old a child should be before they play, and some safety rules and ratings.

Why are trampolines so dangerous?

The idea for the trampoline was invented by George Nissen in the 1930s, when as a teenager he was fascinated by the circus and thought trapeze artists could use a little more bounce at the end of their stunts, rather than landing in a safety net. The trampoline started as a bouncing rig in 1934 with the help of Nissen’s college gymnastics coach. The name came from the Spanish word for a diving board, “el trampolín.”

Bad publicity from injuries began in the ‘60s, but that didn’t stop people from using trampolines. The game of Spaceball, a combination of basketball and volleyball on the trampoline, was created. Trampolining is even an Olympic sport, with the gold medal in 2000 won by Russia, where Nissen donated one of the first of his inventions in the 1950s.

So, what’s so bad about them?

Most commonly, injuries happen when jumpers collide with one another, they fall on the trampoline springs or frame, they fall or jump off the trampoline itself, or they do stunts. Leg and foot injuries are most frequently seen, but any part of the body can be injured on a trampoline, including the head, neck, and spine. In Florida, a 3-year-old boy was placed in a body cast from the waist down when he broke his thigh bone while jumping at a trampoline park — and he didn’t even fall. The repetitive pressure from jumping may have caused his fracture, doctors said.

According to the last available report on trampoline injuries by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in 2000, trampoline injuries tripled between 1991 and 1999, with nearly 100,000 people treated in hospital emergency rooms that year. Over a 10-year period, there were 11 deaths from trampoline injuries.

Most trampoline injuries occur to children, with two-thirds of emergency room visits by those ages 6-14. Those younger than age 6 accounted for 15% of injuries. About a decade later, injuries from trampolines remained steady — 65,000 kids age 14 and younger were treated in hospital emergency rooms because of trampoline incidents.

Although trampoline parks have emerged in recent years, injury rates and trampoline sales both peaked in 2004 and have been on the decline since. In 2009, nearly 98,000 trampoline injuries were reported, compared to about 112,000 in 2004.

For additional information about types of injuries, frequency, and more between home and park trampolines, check out this article: Kasmire KE, Rogers SC, Sturm JJ. Trampoline Park and Home Trampoline Injuries. Pediatrics. 2016; 138(3):e20161236

What is the right age for a trampoline?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly discourages home trampoline use for any age. That goes for mini trampolines, too. A big issue is that many parents or supervising adults are not aware of trampoline safety, such as limiting the trampoline to one jumper at a time, but injuries occur even with parents watching.

According to the AAP, the rates of swimming injuries were similar to those for the trampoline in children younger than age 14 — but people tend to be more educated about the dangers of swimming over the dangers of trampolines. Some homeowner insurance policies, however, have trampoline exclusions or mandate trampolines to enclosed areas.

In 1999, the CPSC requested changes to the volunteer safety standard for trampolines. They were:

  1. Having padding cover the entire frame, hooks, and springs. (Padding interventions have not been shown to decrease certain injuries, though.)
  2. Labeling on products must state that trampolines over 20 inches tall aren’t recommended for children younger than age 6.
  3. Ladders can’t be sold with trampolines, to help prevent younger kids’ access.
  4. Warnings must be visible in alerting jumpers to avoid somersaults and multiple jumpers.

Additionally, having a net enclosure around the trampoline can help prevent some injuries.

If you are going to allow a child to use a trampoline, the Mayo Clinic suggests the following:

  • Children younger than age 6 shouldn’t use a trampoline, period. Make sure only one person uses the trampoline at a time. Do not allow any stunts, like somersaults — at the very least, make sure there is supervision and instruction for your budding gymnast.
  • Install a trampoline enclosure (net) and use safety pads on the frame, springs, and landing surfaces nearby.
  • Keep trampolines at ground level and away from trees and other hazards.
  • Never leave children unsupervised while using a trampoline.

It’s important to reiterate that many injuries still occur despite reported adult supervision.

Are trampolines good for your health?

Although trampolines can be pretty dangerous, they do carry some benefits. Adults may use mini trampolines as part of their exercise routine — jumping on one for just 20 minutes can be just as effective as running for the same amount of time, according to the American Council on Exercise.

Trampolining benefits include balance training and spatial awareness (early research was done on astronauts and fighter pilots), as the workout requires you to react to an unstable surface while performing different movements. On a trampoline, men can burn about 12.5 calories per minute while women burn an average of 9.5 calories per minute — the same as running 6 miles per hour on a flat surface; biking 14 miles per hour; or playing football, basketball, or ultimate Frisbee.

For adults looking to start (safely) exercising on a trampoline, you may be able to reap the rewards. But again, this isn’t recommended for kids.

Get Help if You’ve Been Injured

The last thing you want to think about while having a good time is how bad something might be for you or your loved ones. While playing on a trampoline can be an enjoyable experience, and good exercise to boot, it’s important to be mindful of the risks. Always supervise your children while they are playing outside, particularly around dangerous toys like a trampoline.

If you or your child have been injured by trampoline use, you may be entitled to compensation. Perhaps the product was faulty and broke while you were using it, or your child was unsupervised and got hurt while on someone else’s property. The experienced attorneys of Dyer, Garofalo, Mann, & Schultz are here to help. Contact us today for a free case review.

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