Many of us remember long ago summer afternoons spent playing on trampolines, running around until the street lights came on, catching fireflies in jars. Now we may be parents of children ourselves, and we want to give the same good memories to our own kids.
My own sons—aged nine and six—have been nagging their father and me to get one ever since the parents of their friend did so at the beginning of June. We’ve talked about it, but, as every parent knows—caution and research should go hand in hand. Another neighbour child fell and broke her arm on the frame of one just last summer, and we certainly didn’t want to expose our children to a potentially harmful situation. But what are the risks?
“I Dare You” and Other Dangerous Activities
I was a little bit unsettled to discover just how dangerous trampolines actually are. Much of the risk is due to improper use, which is code language meaning kids don’t always wait their turn to use the toy. When disagreements flair up and pushing or overcrowding occurs, kids can fall and get hurt.
It also speaks to the performance of stunts—jumping from high places onto the trampoline. Performing acrobatic maneuvers without prior training. And falling from the trampoline to the ground—which can lead to severe injury. Parents should never allow kids to play on trampolines without supervision.
If you’re wondering whether I’m overstating the dangers of improper trampoline usage, here are a few current statistics that I found. Based on reports from the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) there are more than 246,000 trampoline-related injuries a year. Seventy five percent of these injuries occur to children under the age of 14, and include fractures of the legs and arms, spinal injuries, and vertebral damage. There are even reports of deaths that have occurred because children fell or were pushed during use of a trampoline.
Safety Measures You Can Take
Now that you’ve heard the unsettling news about trampolines, here’s the bright side. There are plenty of measures you can take to ensure safe, healthy activity for your kids and the neighbors.
The first and most important rule is: only one person jumping at a time. In fact, only one person on the trampoline at a time.
Other safety measures that will come in handy are:
• A padded bolster or cover for the springs and frame
• A netted enclosure to prevent falls from the trampoline or inappropriate stunts.
• A gated yard or posted warning against unsupervised use.
• Do not allow unsupervised use. Ever.
• Do not permit a child under six to use it. Ever.
• Place the trampoline in an open area
• Never place it on concrete. The ground cover should be soft in the event of a fall.
• No ladders. These offer small children ease of access without permission.
Attractive Nuisances, Insurance, and You
Most home-owner’s insurance policies don’t cover trampolines, because they invite unauthorized and unsupervised use. This can lead to lawsuits if a neighbour’s child falls and seriously injures him or herself. That’s why trampoline insurance is a separate affair, but one you should not ignore. There are three ways insurance companies deal with trampolines:
• No Exclusions. This means that your insurance policy will cover a trampoline without additional premiums.
• With Safety Precautions. Remember those safety measures I talked about earlier? Your carrier may agree to cover a trampoline if you’ve implemented several or all safety precautions.
• Trampoline Exclusion. You aren’t covered in the instance of an injury—whether the person was a guest or an intruder.
Basically, you should review your home-owner’s insurance policy before you purchase a trampoline. If you don’t, it can be costly, not only in terms of future policies and premiums, but also in the event of an accident.
While we want our boys to be safe, we also want our neighbour’s children to be safe, too. We look out for each other, here. Even if your policy offers trampoline coverage, make sure you take the time to install safety measures and educate your kids on proper trampoline etiquette.