One topic that’s always a red flag for me is trampolines. Parents are often conflicted on whether or not they like them, let alone want their kids on them. We really want our kids to get outside and play as much as possible, especially after a long (Alaskan) winter. But there are so many scary things about trampolines. They’re a big challenge, as parents we are really torn. They draw kids outside and help them get active like very few other things, but the safety consequences can be devastating.
Here are some facts:
- Nearly 75,000 kids go to the emergency room every year for trampoline injuries. When you figure that most kids are only jumping in warm weather, that’s a lot of injuries in a short amount of time.
- Major injuries, which means badly broken bones, severe damage to head, neck, and spine, have doubled from trampolines in the last few years.
- Children younger than 6 years are at the greatest risk of injury. However, the older the child, the more severe the injuries.
- Most of these injuries occur from back yard trampolines, over 70%.
I think the main causes are pretty obvious, but here are a few things you may not know:
- Many injuries are caused from kids bouncing into each other.
- The “but-drop” or “knee-drop” tricks that kids like so much may seem simple and harmless but little kids don’t understand how to safely tighten their bodies to protect their spines. These should never be done by kids younger than 6 yrs old. Older kids should know how to tighten up their muscles for protection. This may be tough to do when distracted. The risk of this cannot be understated. We’re talking spinal cord injuries and paralysis.
- I’ve had lots of parents buy trampolines to help their kids with gymnastics skills. This can actually do more harm than good.
- The tramp creates a false sense of achievement. It does a lot of the work for you. Kids can do skills (badly) over and over again and create muscle memory (aka bad habits) that coaches have to work very hard to fix.
- Kids also stop using their muscles to jump because if they push too hard the tramp will throw them dangerously. This weakens the gymnast over time and when they transfer the skill to a non-tramp surface, it’s a rude awakening. This also compounds the safety issue because kids will think “they got it” with regards to a potentially dangerous skill. They’ll come off the tramp and try it again without proper help and spotting and get really hurt.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mini and full-sized trampolines never be used at home, in routine (school) gym classes, or on playgrounds. They should only be used in supervised training programs for gymnastics, diving, or other competitive sports. Only one person should be allowed on a trampoline at any given time.
AAP says “Don’t buy a trampoline for your home! Trampolines may be popular and a fun way to get exercise, but there are safer ways to encourage your children to be physically active, such as playing catch, riding a bike (don’t forget a bike helmet), or playing a team sport.”
If you choose to have a home trampoline, the AAP recommends the following safety precautions:
- Adult supervision at all times
- Only one jumper on the trampoline at a time
- No somersaults performed
- Adequate protective padding on the trampoline that is in good condition and appropriately placed
- Stable, level base for all the trampoline legs
- Check all equipment often
- When damaged, protective padding, the net enclosure, and any other parts should be repaired or replaced
- Don’t add water! No hoses or water play on top of the tramp
I have to honestly say that trampolines were a really hard boundary at my house. I raised gymnasts and trampolines are really fun. My kids thought I was a real kill-joy when they ran into the house to ask if they could jump on a neighbors trampoline and I would go examine it. Then I wouldn’t let them when I saw it unstable and inadequately padded. Kids will always push the boundaries if you are not watching. My kids would tell me their friends loved jumping while getting sprayed with a hose. Sounds really fun and incredibly dangerous. I’m sure my kids have done this when I wasn’t looking. Your can’t protect them from everything, but trampolines need boundaries.
Here’s hoping for a healthy, injury-free summer.