The American Academy of Pediatrics has long warned against the use of home trampolines, first issuing a policy statement against their use in 1977.
Originally designed for training acrobats, gymnasts, and military aviators, the home use of trampolines increased as cheap trampolines became available in recent years.
The AAP has finally issued an update in their new policy statement that will appear in the October 2012 issue of Pediatrics, "Trampoline Safety in Childhood and Adolescence," stating that "pediatricians should counsel their patients and families against recreational trampoline use and explain that current data indicate safety measures have not significantly reduced injury rates and that catastrophic injuries do occur."
Why did we need an update? Although trampoline related injuries have decreased a little in recent years, at least since they peaked in 2004, it is estimated that just over 97,000 children are still injured on trampolines each year. And about 3,100 kids are hospitalized with trampoline related injuries. In addition to ankle sprains and forearm fractures, more serious trampoline related injuries can include head and neck injuries, sternal fractures, vertebral artery dissection, and atlanto-axial subluxation.
The updated policy statement also informs pediatricians and parents about some new dangers, including decreased quality of trampolines being sold today as compared to the past, a decrease in warranty coverage, especially for the padding and enclosure nets, and commercial trampoline parks, with wall-to-wall trampolines, popping up in many cities. Some parents will remember that a USA Today article in February highlighted the "safety issues and lack of regulations covering these popular indoor venues," where staff have little training, aren't certified, and seem to do little besides posting rules and having people sign liability waivers.
The new policy statement will hopefully get the message out about the dangers of trampolines and clear up many myths that some parents still have, such as that netting can make them safe.
Michele LaBotz, MD, FAAP, co-author of the updated policy statement, states that "families need to know that many injuries occur on the mat itself, and current data do not appear to demonstrate that netting or padding significantly decrease the risk of injury."
Many parents also should know that if they are going to ignore this safety advice and just have to get a trampoline for their kids or visit a trampoline park or jump park, then they should at the very least make sure that:
- their homeowners insurance policy actually covers trampoline related claims
- only one jumper is on the trampoline at a time, as multiple jumpers increase the risk of injury
- their kids should be instructed not to perform somersaults and flips, as they can lead to permanent and devastating cervical spine injuries
- the trampoline has adequate protective padding that is regularly inspected and is in good condition
- their trampoline is at ground level
And most importantly, an adult should actively supervise kids on a trampoline at all times and should enforce the above rules.