I've seen them in lots of suburban back yards - large trampolines surrounded by a safety net. Jumping on a trampoline is fun and good exercise but a growing source for injuries both minor - like ankle sprains - and major - like spinal and head traumas. The reality is that even with safety nets, trampolines have always been a dangerous place for kids to play.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) cites that nearly 100,000 injuries were directly attributed to trampoline use in 2009, noting that safety nets don't seem to be improving injury statistics for trampolines.
It was reassuring to read in this recent NBCNews.com article that I'm not alone in recommending that kids avoid using trampolines unless it is part of a supervised sport with the proper safety precautions in place.
"Pediatricians need to actively discourage recreational trampoline use," said Michele LaBotz, MD, sports medicine physician and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics executive council on sports medicine and fitness. "This is not a toy. It's a piece of equipment. We recommend that you not provide it for your family or your neighbors to use. But if you do use one, you need to be aware of the risks."
LaBotz also noted that attempts by the trampoline industry to make things safer, like the addition of safety nets, tend to lull parents into a false sense of security.
The AAP acknowledges that some parents may not want to give up their trampolines and instead created this list of safety tips for parents:
- Trampolines should be set at ground level whenever possible or on a level surface and in areas cleared of any surrounding hazards.
- Active supervision by adults familiar with the recommendations should occur at all times. Supervising adults should be willing and able to enforce these guidelines. Mere presence of an adult is not sufficient.
- Pediatricians should advise parents and children against recreational trampoline use. Netting and other safety equipment doesn't help reduce injury rates.
- Failed attempts at somersaults and flips frequently cause cervical spine injuries and can result in permanent and devastating consequences.
- Homeowners with a trampoline should verify that their insurance covers trampoline-injury related claims.
- At trampoline parks, remember that their rules and regulations may not be consistent with AAP guidelines.
- Trampolines used for a structured sports training program should always have appropriate supervision, coaching, and safety measures in place.