It seems like everyone I know who had a trampoline as a kid also has a story about breaking their leg, or their arm, or personally witnessing some heinous injury. Trampolines have only gotten more popular in recent years, and they've gotten safer, too, with nets and spring covers — so are they still a broken leg waiting to happen?
Unfortunately, the answer is probably yes. Just ask the people who treat those injuries. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) "strongly discourage[s]" kids using backyard or home trampolines because of the risk of injuries. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) takes a dim view of trampolines as well, pointing out the statistics on injuries before reluctantly suggesting some safety measures. One of them: just keep kids under six off trampolines entirely.
Similar concerns are shared by the Australian Competition And Consumer Commission (ACCC) which warns the following:
Trampolines pose a number of safety risks, particularly if not properly maintained. Children and adults can suffer:
- cuts, bruises, sprains and fractures if they fall and hit the side of the trampoline, the ground, or a nearby object
- pinches to their skin and other injuries if they get their heads or limbs entangled in the trampoline springs.
- Infants can suffer serious injuries from falls, pinching and crushing if they use trampolines or are near a trampoline others are using.
What about safety nets?
It seems like safety equipment should help, but so far there's no evidence that it actually does. A net (properly installed, and in good repair) should stop people from falling off the trampoline, and it makes sense that pads over the springs should reduce spring-related injuries.
But the US doctors' groups say they keep seeing injuries even from trampolines with nets and pads. The AAP states, "although there is a paucity of data, current implementation of safety measures have not appeared to mitigate risk substantially."
So how are kids actually getting hurt? (And yes, it's about 90 per cent kids, not adults, who show up to hospitals with trampoline-related injuries.) Here are some of the common scenarios besides falling off:
They can sprain a wrist or ankle, or fracture an arm or leg, just from a bad landing on the trampoline mat itself (the place where you're supposed to land).
They can collide with another kid who is jumping at the same time.
They can attempt a somersault or other stunt, and land on their head (yes, even on the mat).
They can land from a jump at almost the same time as another kid, when the trampoline surface is moving upward. (In other words, they're trying to "double bounce" and the timing is just a little bit off.) The resulting pressure can be enough to cause a fracture.
If you want to prevent as many of those possibilities as you can, here's what you'll have to do according to the AAOS:
Don't let kids under six on the trampoline at all.
Only allow one kid at a time.
Always have a grownup present to supervise.
Don't rely on safety nets; better to put the trampoline as close to the ground as possible.
So now trampoline jumping seems a lot less fun. And your kid can still certainly find a way to hurt themselves.
All that said, it's your choice - everything in life has a risk to it. Car accidents are common and deadly, but we drive cars anyway. Drinking alcohol is a lot of fun, but increases your chances of getting cancer.
I used to play roller derby, a sport that sees a ton of broken limbs and concussions; if I wanted to get into gymnastics trampoline, I'd be facing some risks as well, and I might decide it's worth it. But for my kids, who occasionally ask if we can get a trampoline or if they can visit some friend-of-a-friend who has one? I distract them with video games.