Are trampolines safe for your backyard? The short answer is "No," at least according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP is the professional organization for pediatricians in the U.S. In September 2012, the academy reiterated and strengthened its previous statements on trampoline safety. The 2012 statement calls for use of home trampolines to be "strongly discouraged."
Types of Injuries
Trampoline injuries have actually declined since 2004. However, these injuries can be severe, which is why doctors urge parents to be cautious. The most common trampoline-related injury is a sprained ankle; this isn't severe, but can be painful and will limit kids' participation in sports and other activities.
Broken bones and dislocations are also a risk, especially for young children. The AAP's data review showed that 29 percent of injuries in kids ages 6 to 17 were fractures or dislocations. But these accounted for almost half of the injuries among kids 5 and under. Most worrying are injuries to the head and neck, which make up 10 to 17 percent of all trampoline-related injuries.
How Injuries Happen
The AAP statement identifies three common causes of trampoline-related injuries:
- Multiple simultaneous users: "Three-quarters of injuries occurred when multiple people were using the trampoline at the same time. The smallest participants were up to 14 times more likely to sustain injury relative to their heavier playmates."
- Falls from the trampoline: Safety netting does not seem to have a significant effect on the rate of this kind of injury. There isn't enough research available to explain why, but it may be because safety enclosures aren't installed correctly, because kids climb on the netting, and/or because the enclosures can wear out quickly. Warranties for enclosure nets are usually shorter than warranties for other parts of the trampoline.
- Impact with frame and springs: As with nets, it seems that padding does not do enough to prevent injury. Even as the availability and use of padding has gone up, injuries haven't gone down. Again, this might be because padding wears out quickly. As with netting, warranties don't cover padding for as long as they cover other trampoline parts.
Are Indoor Trampolines Safe?
The jury is still out, because not enough research has been done. The AAP says commercial trampoline parks should follow the same safety guidelines it suggests for home trampolines.
Trampolines are used in training for gymnastics, diving, figure skating, and freestyle skiing. This is the only use of trampolines that the AAP endorses, "as part of a structured training program with appropriate coaching, supervision, and safety measures in place." Such safety measures might include a safety belt or harness.
What about mini-trampolines (also called rebounders)? The AAP does not take a position on these, perhaps because they are intended to be used by adults for fitness. They are also low to the ground which reduces the risk of dangerous falls. If you have a rebounder at home, limit use to one person at a time and make sure the surrounding area is clear of any hard objects or surfaces.
Trampoline Safety Rules
If you already have a trampoline, or your kids play on one away from home, insist on these AAP-recommended safety guidelines:
- Never allow more than one person to jump at the same time.
- Tell kids not to attempt somersaults and flips (these are among the most common causes of permanent, devastating cervical spine injuries).
- Adults must provide constant, active supervision and should be willing to enforce all safety guidelines.
- Homeowners should verify that their insurance policies cover trampoline-related claims.
- Trampolines should have adequate protective padding that is in good condition and appropriately placed.
- Trampolines should be set at ground level whenever possible, or on a level surface and in an area cleared of any surrounding hazards.
- Protective padding, net enclosure, and any other damaged parts should be inspected frequently and replaced as needed.
- Trampolines should be discarded if replacement parts are unavailable and the product is worn or damaged.
American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness: Trampoline Safety in Childhood and Adolescence. Pediatrics Vol. 130 No. 4, October 2012.