Jumping is Nice, But Think Twice
By Ellen Kuwana
Neuroscience for Kids Staff Writer
June 11, 1999



Jumping on a trampoline is one of the few ways to feel weightless on Earth, but statistics show that trampoline accidents are the cause of many neck and spinal cord injuries. Trampoline purchases have been increasing over the years, and with trampoline events being featured for the first time in the 2000 Olympics, more children than ever will be exposed to trampolines. Let's take a closer look at how risky this apparatus can be.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, an estimated 83,400 children in the United States suffered trampoline-related injuries in 1996 that required a visit to an emergency room. This represents a 140% increase in the annual incidence of injury compared to statistics from 1990. The majority of injuries involved children between 5 and 15 years old. Although injuries to the leg, foot, arm and hand were most common, 14% of the injuries were to the head or face. About 15% of all head injuries involved fractures, concussions and internal head injuries. Most injuries occurred on home trampolines, and ranged in seriousness from sprains and broken bones to spinal cord trauma and head injury. Since 1990, there have been six fatalities reported as a result of trampoline use. Most of the deaths were caused by a fall from the trampoline in which the upper part of the spinal cord was injured.

The American Academy of Pediatrics in May 1999 issued a policy statement with the following recommendations:

"The trampoline should not be used at home, inside or outside."

"The trampoline should not be part of routine physical education classes in schools."

"The trampoline has no place in outdoor playgrounds and should never be regarded as play equipment."

For those who already have a trampoline, the AAP suggests the following safety guidelines:

  1. Have an adult supervising play at all times.
  2. Children younger than 6 yrs old should never use the trampoline.
  3. Pad all exposed metal surfaces, especially on the top part of the trampoline.
  4. Only allow one child at a time to bounce on the trampoline to avoid collisions.
  5. Sign children up for a few lessons at a local gymnastics center, so that they learn to do tricks properly before trying them at home on their own. If local gyms do not offer trampoline lessons, inquire about a private lesson with a coach.
  6. More difficult tricks such as front and back tucks should be learned in a safety harness called a "belt," again available at a local gymnastics center.

Several sports have made news headlines this year in regards to head injuries including team sports such as soccer, football, hockey, rodeo, and individual sports such as snow skiing, snowboarding, in-line skating and cycling. Many of these sports have developed guidelines for preventing head injuries such as recommending no heading in recreational soccer for young children, or having cyclers and skiers wear helmets. The solution for trampoline injuries is not so easy, as it is more a question of HOW you land rather than how to protect the head against impact of a fall. Most serious spinal cord injuries result from landing incorrectly on the neck while jumping on a trampoline.

September, 2012, POLICY STATEMENT from the American Academy of Pediatrics: Trampoline Safety in Childhood and Adolescence

[*Note from Eric H. Chudler, Ph.D.: The author of this "In the News" story, Ellen Kuwana, was a competitive gymnast in high school and has been a gymnastics coach for nearly 20 years. She has extensive experience using the trampoline and would like to share a few thoughts about the warnings about trampoline use.]

"Yes, trampolines can be very dangerous. Generally speaking, I think it is wise to prohibit trampoline use at school and at home. The risk of injury is just too high. Most often children use trampolines unsupervised, or attempt skills beyond their abilities. I was surprised to discover that private use in people's own backyards has increased. This is perhaps why the number of trampoline-related injuries has climbed steadily in the past decade.

One must weigh the enjoyment of using a trampoline against the very real and serious safety concerns involved. I personally would not buy a trampoline for my children, in part because it is difficult to control neighborhood kids' access to the trampoline. In a group, some children will not be as skilled as others on the trampoline, yet all will want to bounce and do tricks, often times trying tricks which are too difficult for them. It is natural to do this, yet bouncing out of control or attempting tricks beyond your skill level can have serious consequences.

If used carefully, trampolines can be an unparalleled source of fun. Before investing in one, I would recommend enrolling your child in a few gymnastics classes to make sure they enjoy this type of activity (most gyms offer a free trial first lesson)."

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