Trampolines May Be Fun — But Not Safe

Recreational trampoline use recommendations outlined by American Academy of Pediatricians

(RxWiki News) BOUNCE! Ka-BOOM! BOUNCE! Jumping on a trampoline is a fun way to "fly" for seconds at a time. But the fun stops when a kid goes flying off the trampoline.

Unfortunately, trampoline injuries happen frequently enough that the American Academy of Pediatricians has updated their policy statement on home trampolines.

This means every parent should monitor their children's activities.

"Exercising is great - Be careful."

The policy statement's author committee was led by Susanah Briskin, MD, a sports medicine physician at the University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, and Michele LaBotz, MD, a sport medicine physician with InterMed in South Portland, Maine.

The statement reviews the evidence linked to home trampoline use and then issues recommendations for use and conclusions about trampoline-related injuries.

Overall, the AAP statement comes down on the side of discouraging home trampoline use because the risk of injury is so great.

Approximately 98,000 injuries occurred as a result of using a trampoline in 2009, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

These rates were higher for children than for adults, and they involved 3,100 hospitalizations. Fractures or dislocations accounted for almost half (48 percent) of the injuries.

Among the worst injuries are cervical spine injuries, which can lead to paralysis or death. These are more likely to occur if a person attempts a flip or somersault on the trampoline.

About 27 to 39 percent of all injuries were related to falling from the trampoline, and about 75 percent of the injuries occurred when more than one person was jumping at once.

Children — especially those under age 5 — are at the highest risk for injury.

"The AAP strongly discourages use of a home trampoline," said Dr. Briskin in a release about the policy statement. "It bears significant injury risk - especially when somersaults are performed or there are multiple jumpers on the mat at one time."

Overall, trampoline injuries have actually been decreasing since 2004, according to the policy statement's research, but trampoline sales have also declined, so there is not enough evidence to say that trampolines have become safer.

The evidence also did not find that netting or padding around the trampoline did enough to prevent injuries. These safety features might actually "provide a false sense of security," the statement says.

The policy statement also reminds parents that adult supervision is essential whenever children are jumping on a trampoline.

However, about a third to a half of trampoline injuries occur while an adult is.

While having an adult present does not significantly prevent injuries, it might lead to medical attention occurring more quickly.

The authors also noted that trampolines were not originally intended as recreational toys.

"The trampoline was designed as a piece of specialized training equipment for specific sports," the statement says. "Pediatricians should only endorse use of trampolines as part of a structured training program with appropriate coaching, supervision, and safety measures in place."

They recommend that trampoline use within training settings include appropriate skill progression for new skills and the use of a safety belt or harness.

"Equipment, safety measures and supervision within structured training programs are significantly different than those used in the recreational environment," they wrote.

The AAP recommends that pediatricians should discourage parents from allowing their children to use trampolines for fun at home.

Based on the evidence, Daniel Clearfield, DO, a sports medicine doctor and an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, said parents might consider looking for alternative activities than trampoline use.

"While trampolines have been seen as a fun and athletic activity to participate in, the risk of serious injury seems to outweigh the benefit of some temporary fun and athletic activity," Dr. Clearfield said. "There are far safer activities that kids can participate in to have fun and to stay active, without risking serious injury."

If parents insist, the following are the AAP's recommendations:

  • Only one person should jump on the trampoline at a time.
  • Good padding should be appropriately placed for the trampoline.
  • Trampolines should be set on level ground, at ground level (not elevated).
  • The padding, netting and trampoline should be regularly inspected and parts replaced as necessary.
  • Worn or damaged trampolines should be thrown out.
  • Do not attempt flips or somersaults.
  • Adults should always supervise children, be aware of these recommendations and be willing to enforce the rules. Showing up is not enough.

These recommendations should be followed every time a trampoline is used at home.

Regarding recreational trampoline parks or centers, the authors stated that not enough data is available to determine how safe these parks are, so parents should supervise closely and injury rates should be monitored.

The policy statement was published September 24 in the journal Pediatrics. No funding sources or disclosures were noted, primarily because the paper was a policy statement.

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Review Date: 
September 25, 2012