Trampoline trauma

Did you watch the Today show this morning? If so you probably saw a segment on trampoline safety featuring Thriving safety expert, Lois Lee, MD, MPH. Here, Dr. Lee goes into more detail about how to keep your children safe should they use a backyard trampoline.

One of the activities my sister and I enjoyed as children was jumping on our neighbor’s trampoline.  The trampoline was your standard backyard kind–rectangular and black with only mesh on the sides. There was no such thing as netting around the trampolines back then. Most of the time we loved to jump on it and do somersaults, but there were other times when we would just lay on the warm black surface and watch the clouds drift by.

Lois Lee, MD, MPH
Lois Lee, MD, MPH

If my mother knew then what I know now, we’d have spent a lot less time on that trampoline.  Actually, knowing my mother, we wouldn’t have spent any time on it at all.

In response to NBC Today Show’s inquiry about any recent trampoline-related injuries at Children’s, I did a quick search of patients figuring there would be only a few from the scattered sunny days we have had this spring. Boy, was I surprised to find out that the emergency department at Children’s Hospital Boston has seen at least 20 children with trampoline related injuries in the last 8 weeks.  Most of the children had fractures of their arms or legs after falling while jumping on the trampoline in their own backyard.  Nationally, over 90% of the trampoline injuries seen in the emergency department occur on a home-based trampoline—not at a gymnastics facility.

Apparently, trampoline related injuries are much more common that I realized.  Between 2000-2005 there were over 85,000 emergency department visits every year in the United States for trampoline-related injuries.  This is more than double the average number of annual emergency department visits for trampoline injuries in the United States from 1990-1995.  It is unclear why trampoline injuries have increased so much in the last few decades.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children < 6 years should not be allowed on trampolines and that trampolines should not be used for recreation at home. Trampolines, they say, should only be used under supervised conditions for sports-related activities.

The majority of injuries are soft tissues injuries like sprains to the arms and legs.  However, more than a third of the injuries are fractures of the arms or legs.  Children can also have head injuries leading to concussions and facial injuries.  Luckily we have not had children with more serious or life threatening injuries this spring, but severe injuries like cervical spine injuries that can lead to paralysis or even death can occur.  This kind of injury is rare, but possible, and is more often associated with doing tricks, like somersaults, on the trampoline.

Because of this the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that families not have backyard trampolines. While trampoline netting can prevent a child from falling off the trampoline and so may prevent some of the possible injuries, just as many injuries occur on the trampoline itself.

Never allow more than one child at a time on a trampoline

But the reality is that backyard trampolines are out there and children are jumping on them.  What can you do to try to protect your children if they steal over to your neighbor’s trampoline like my sister and I did?  While the American Academy of Pediatrics prefers that children not be on trampolines at all, they say that if they are going to be on them, children should:

  • Be older than 6 years old
  • Only jump one at a time
  • Not do tricks like somersaults

Despite these recommendations, I have a feeling I will be seeing more trampoline-related injuries in the emergency department, if the trend from this spring continues into the summer.  But I hope not.

One thought on “Trampoline trauma

  1. Any comments on adults jumping on trampollines? Our 47 yo son suffered a massive stroke while jumping on trampoline.  Comments welcome.

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