Medical Director's Message
Alan Robson, MD, Medical Director
The American Academy of Pediatrics has once again recommended that pediatricians should advise parents and children against using trampolines for recreational purposes. The original alert was published in 1977 and has been repeated several times since then.
Based on data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) it has been calculated that there were approximately 98,000 trampoline-related injuries in 2009. Many of these injuries were relatively mild, e.g. bruises, sprains or strains. However, more severe injuries included fractures and dislocations. Alarmingly, 48 percent of injured children five years of age or younger fit into this category. More than 3,000 of the 98,000 injuries were sufficiently severe to require admission to hospital and some, especially injuries to the spine, resulted in death.
The number of trampolines sold and the number of trampoline-related injuries peaked in 2004. Both have declined since then. Nevertheless, injuries still occur at a frequency which remains a cause for concern. Even the use of netting and other safety features on trampolines has not been as effective in reducing injuries as had been expected.
The majority of trampoline injuries (about 75 percent) occur when multiple people are jumping simultaneously on the equipment. Under these circumstances it is almost always the youngest participant, especially those in the five year and under age group, who is injured.
Unsuccessful attempts to perform somersaults or flips are frequently the cause for cervical spine
injuries and the resulting permanent or devastating consequences.
The highest prevalence of injuries (160 per 100,000) occurs in five to 14 year olds with 70 per 100,000 being seen in children aged four years and younger. Lower rates are seen in adults.
Falls from the trampoline account for up to 39 percent of the injuries, especially if the equipment is set up on an uneven surface or if there are nearby trees or obstacles on the ground near the trampoline. Other factors predisposing to injuries include poor maintenance of the equipment, worn protective padding and absence of active supervision by adults.
If your family chooses to use a trampoline, what measures should be taken?
1) Only one person should use the trampoline at any time.
2) There should be an adult supervising the action. Merely being present is not enough.
3) The equipment should be well maintained and should be inspected carefully before each session.
4) Somersaults and flips should be permitted only if the participant is an appropriately trained gymnast and under the supervision of a coach.
5) Before your child plays on a trampoline make sure that your insurance policies cover any trampoline-related claim. Many do not.
Trampolines were designed initially as a training tool for acrobats and gymnasts, not for recreational play by children.
Please play it safe. We can care for any of the injuries that can result from trampoline accidents but prefer that parents follow the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics.