My daughter groaned dramatically when she heard that I was writing a post on trampoline safety. I definitely have a ‘love-hate’ relationship with our trampoline and, truth be known, more days than not, I wish I had never bought it. Since purchasing it, I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard about people hurting themselves on trampolines. As a result, much to my daughter’s chagrin, I have quite a few rules related to trampoline use (truthfully, my husband is half the problem, as he tends to get carried away and ‘stretch’ the rules without thinking through the consequences).
I did quite a bit of research before I decided on our trampoline and it is about as structurally safe as it can be (this thing is literally the ‘Fort Knox’ of trampolines), however, that is only one piece of the puzzle. You can have the safest trampoline on the market, but if you use it unsafely, you are not much better off.
The trouble is that most people view a trampoline as just a ‘fun toy’ for their children, but it can actually be quite dangerous, especially for children, who are more susceptible to injuries (trampoline injuries typically consist of breaks, fractures, spinal injuries and head injuries). When Parents.com asked doctors at ten of the leading children’s hospitals in the United States, what advice they would give to parents to prevent a trip to the emergency room, the number one response was to “just say no to trampolines”.
Did you know that a mind-blowing 92,000 visits are made to the E.R. a year, due to trampoline-related injuries(http://www.parents.com/health/doctors/what-er-doctors-wish-you-knew)? That being said, if your children ARE going to play on a trampoline, here are some ways to minimize the risks.
- Only one person jumping at a time – I know that it’s so much more fun to have a whole bunch of people all jumping together, but the risk of injury increases exponentially with each additional person. That’s because many injuries occur when kids bang into one another (e.g. with their heads) or land on one another. “If one or two kids jump up, then the trampoline is like concrete for the child coming down. Kids can even break their arms or legs as they land.” (Howard Kadish, M.D., pediatric emergency medicine physician at the Primary Children’s Medical Center, Salt Lake City). Injury is even more likely and serious if an adult bounces on a trampoline with a child, due to the weight differential, so don’t be enticed to ‘join in on the fun’.
- Children should always be supervised by an adult when playing on the trampoline. Let’s face it, they’re much more likely to “try something new” when you’re not watching them then when you are. Make sure your children enforce this rule, even when they have guests over.
- Do not bounce on a wet mat as it becomes very slippery (I know it looks like fun to add water and water toys to their trampoline fun, but the increased risk of injury just isn’t worth it). This is the same reason why you should not jump on a trampoline with socks on (the best option is bare feet).
- No flips or aerial somersaults, unless they are taught how to do these tricks by a professional (my local gymnastics club actually offers a trampoline course). These tricks look mighty impressive, but they are a neck or head injury waiting to happen.
- No jumping with balls or other toys on the trampoline (I know I’m a killjoy, but imagine if your child is bouncing on the trampoline and comes down on a ball or other toy). Having said that, I have allowed a game where participants either sit or stand on the trampoline and pass a ball back and forth (e.g. kicking, rolling or bouncing), without jumping.
- Jump in the middle of the mat, not at the edges, and never bounce off the net. Many people who have a trampoline net have been lulled into a false sense of security, only to find out that the net is not weight-bearing or has not been assembled properly.
- Anyone not jumping should be sitting at the edge of the trampoline with their legs criss-crossed so that they don’t trip the jumper or get their legs jumped on (in the ideal world, there would only be one person on the trampoline period, but if that’s not the case, make sure to follow this rule).
Ensure that all people who are responsible for your children (e.g. babysitters and grandparents) know the trampoline rules and adhere to them. A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with a grandmother who had allowed her grandchildren to jump off the roof of the shed onto the trampoline and was now reassessing the wisdom of her actions (she was pretty concerned about how her daughter and son-in-law were going to react).
Another thing you’ll want to check out is whether or not your homeowner’s insurance covers trampoline injuries (immediate family or otherwise). An increasing number of insurance companies are not covering this in their policies because of the high risk. Being sued by parents of a child who got hurt on your trampoline could put a serious dent in your wallet!
I don’t know about you but, where I live, it seems like almost everyone has a trampoline (perhaps an exaggeration, but there are quite a few). The reality though, is that there are millions of households who have them, so you’ll probably want to check this out when your child is going to a friend’s house or a birthday party. There is a wide range of quality when it comes to trampolines (I have seen some that are pretty rickety and that don’t have a net or other safety features), and most people don’t follow these trampoline safety rules, so I generally ask the parent that my child not be allowed to go on the trampoline (trust me, this does not make me my daughter’s favorite person, but I’d rather be safe than sorry).
A friend of mine asked me the other day how I liked the trampoline and whether or not she should consider buying one for her boys. I gave her a brief summary of my findings and strongly encouraged her to think long and hard about it first. It’s every parent’s decision but, at the end of the day, I have to side with the emergency room doctors who cautioned, “just say no to trampolines”!