The Best Trampoline for Your Child’s Safety

trampoline-241899_640When it comes to trampolines, safety is our top priority. While many of the dire warnings about the danger of rebounders are highly exaggerated, that does not make them perfectly safe. Especially if you don’t take the proper precautions. But with a few easy pointers, it is easy to find the best trampoline – that also is the safest.

Comparing Issues of Safety

Before getting too deep into which trampolines would be the safest available, let’s start by addressing the safety issue. In many respects, trampolines are unfairly maligned for causing injuries that are more a part of any vigorous activity.

Among the most famous studies on the topic was one done by the American Academy of Pediatrics that compared emergency room visits for children based on what types of sports they were playing when they sustained the injury. Roughly 30 million children in the United States take part in organized sports every year, and there are approximately 3.5 million injuries sustained annually from those sports.

Far and away the highest injury rates came not from trampolines, however, but from football, with 215,000 emergency room visits in 2009 from children aged 5 to 14. These injuries were sustained at games or practice. Behind that was bicycling, a solo sport, with 200,000 reported cases.

Trampolining is actually far down the list, almost at the bottom and only outranking winter sports like tobogganing and skiing, coming in just shy of skateboarding at 65,000 reported cases for that year.

Of course, most parents wouldn’t think twice about allowing their child to play football or own a skateboard. And why should they? For the most part, these are reasonably safe sports. Even though accidents do happen, there are safety precautions.

Very few Americans are unfamiliar with football pads, and the iconic helmets can be purchased at nearly any sporting goods store, big box retainer, and college town gas station in the country. As for skating or bicycling, very few children get through school without being advised to always wear a bike helmet whenever they ride. For skateboarders, even the professionals don’t go out without helmets, elbow and knee pads, and wrist guards to protect themselves from serious injury.

In much the same way that other sports have safety equipment that can enhance their experience while keeping them from hurting themselves, so does trampolining.

The Type of Safety Equipment You Should Look For

It doesn’t take much to significantly reduce the chance for injury on a trampoline, but far too many people don’t take these simple precautions.

Safety Nets

The most common and most obvious is to have a net surrounding the trampoline. Modern nets are capable of preventing even adults from accidentally jumping off the trampoline pad, a problem that causes a big portion of the injuries. Most nets are easy to remove and are generally made from tightly woven rope.

Far too many parents forego the use of nets for a variety of reasons, the most common being that it ruins the look of their yard – like a child who refuses to wear a helmet because it “looks stupid.”

Trampoline Pads

Another easy safety feature that many trampoline owners don’t think of is a pad for the frame of the trampoline. These simple items are very easy to install on most modern trampolines and can prevent numerous injuries to head and feet. They not only serve to cover up the metal and provide a cushion for falling and landing, they also make entering and exiting easier and can cover the hard metal of the springs. Similarly, they can keep springs from compressing and pinching skin due to poorly timed landings.

The Best Safety Measure of All

Of course, the best safety equipment for trampolines is your eyes. Keep a watch on your children while they’re playing and prevent them from doing anything too risky. Join them if you really want to not only keep them safe, but create a fun bonding experience. As parents, you are the first line of defense against serious injury.

For a quick review, let’s just look at some of the basic equipment that can be utilized to ensure the highest level of safety.

– A Trampoline Net
– Trampoline Pads
– Copious Parental Supervision

Once you have taken the steps to ensure the highest level of safety available to your child, you can then start looking into what would be the best trampoline for them to have so that you can count on the equipment to match your expectations and support your efforts.

Looking for the First Signs of Damage

Of course, what good is high quality equipment if you don’t keep it in good shape? Entropy doesn’t stop just because we have made an initial effort, and over time even the best equipment starts to fail. Especially when exposed to the elements like so many trampolines are through the year.

Here are a few things you should be looking for every time that somebody is about to jump.

Rust and Erosion

Over time, metal frames will start to rust no matter how much you take care of them. Fortunately, there are ways to postpone rust. Before you or your children start jumping, do a quick visual inspection of the frame and the legs to make sure that there is no rust building up on them.

The same should be done with the springs. If you notice any rust, take a moment with a rust remover to get rid of it so that it doesn’t spread. Don’t be afraid to use a coating or spray to resist oxidation.

Tears in the Mat

Look and see if there are any tears in the mat. Trampoline mats are made from a specific material called polypropylene. It is manufactured into fibers and woven very tightly together. While this is good for bouncing, once it starts to weaken it can continue to come apart. If left unchecked, somebody eventually could fall right through it. There are ways to repair small rips or tears, but in most cases it’s a good idea just to get a new mat should you see damage.

Pads Losing Stuffing

The foam material that is used in most trampoline pads is generally solid, but over time it can start to disintegrate. It can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew if left in damp areas after the covering cracks or tears. Before bouncing, take a quick look for any damage to the cover and either tape it up or replace it as soon as possible.

Net Disintegration

Trampoline nets are usually made of nylon rope. With the passage of enough time, they will eventually fall apart. This is especially true if you leave the net up outside when not in use where rain and other elements can affect it on a constant basis.

Mostly, this can be seen with a quick look by checking for places with thinning ropes or even holes that shouldn’t be there. Nets tend to be fairly inexpensive, so when one starts to break down, it’s a good idea to just buy a new one.

Similarly, take a look at all of the connectors and hanging hooks for the net frame to see if any of them need repair or replacement. Don’t hang a net with a hook missing or you’ve created a hole for your child to fall through.

Long Term Maintenance

Of course, quick inspections only get you so far. Many of the problems that would become apparent due to a visual inspection can be held off or prevented with proper care and maintenance over the course of the year. It doesn’t take a whole lot to keep a trampoline in good shape, but these simple steps will help you avoid safety problems.

Clean the Mat

Trampoline mats are designed to resist damage from the elements, but that doesn’t mean that they are impervious. Sun in particular can be very bad for your mat, drying it out and leaving it brittle.

Regular cleaning with a bleach-free, gentle detergent can help prevent this. Cleaning helps preserving the moisture inside the fibers but removing dirt and debris that can eat away at the material.  Chemical interaction or dirt friction over time erodes the strength of the mat.

Seal the Metal Parts

The best trampoline manufacturers will often ship their items with a protective coating on the metal parts to extend the life of the product. No coating is permanent, however, and eventually it will wear off and leave your tramopline vulnerable to damage that can make it more dangerous.

That’s why it’s a good idea to reseal your trampoline every six months to a year. Sealants generally come in spray cans and can be purchased at your local hardware store, though there are some that can be painted on to the desired thickness. Don’t be afraid to ask what type of sealant is going to be best for the job and make sure that you take the time to do it right or you’ll just have wasted your effort and resources.

Take Down Whatever You Can

It may be frustrating to have to put up and take down the net or other parts of the trampoline, especially if your child wants to use it every day, but keeping them inside when not in use will extend the life of the parts and keep them safer for longer.

Certainly disassemble and store your trampoline during the winter months. Parts like the net, the pads, ladders, and even the mat and springs can be taken down and put away with little effort, then reassembled later. All of the best trampoline makers will have instructions on how to do this.

Of course, if you do disassemble your trampoline, it’s a good idea to know how to store it to keep it in the best shape.

Storing Your Trampoline Parts

Odds are in favor that there will be times during the year that you won’t want to have your trampoline outside in the backyard and will need to store all or part of it to keep safe. Here are just a few suggestions for how to keep those parts in the best shape.

Storing Your Trampoline Mat

Since this is the part that is most vulnerable to the elements, it’s a good idea to store it carefully. The first thing you should consider is that excess moisture can start to rot away the mat, especially if it’s folded up someplace.

That’s why it’s a good idea to place dryer sheets between the folds to regulate the moisture so that the mat doesn’t dry out or rot away while being stored. It should be placed in a cool, dry area and covered with a tarp if at all possible to make sure it stays in the best shape.

Store Your Trampoline Springs

Springs are generally made of metal and therefore prone to rust. That’s why you should be careful with how you store them in order to ensure that they don’t rust and run the risk of breaking during use. The first thing that should be done is a thorough cleaning followed by spraying with a coating of sealant.

This will help them keep through the off season. Wait for the sealant to dry before storing them in a zip lock bag with any other small metal parts and remove as much air from the bad as you can before putting them someplace out of direct, sustained light.

Store Your Trampoline Net

The net is possibly the easiest to store, though it also is made out of the weakest material. More than damage, the main thing to worry about with nets is getting tangled. Far too often, people will simply fold them or throw them in a heap on the floor, making them very difficult to untangle when it comes time to use them again.

Instead, take a wooden dowel about an inch in diameter and use tape to attach the ends of the net to it on one side. From there, it’s simply a matter of rolling the net up on the dowel and placing it up against a wall. For extra protection during long term storage, you can consider plastic wrap and storage tape to keep it safe from excess humidity.

What Brands Are Safest

Now that we’ve explored extensively the ways that you can keep your trampoline in the best possible shape to keep it safe, let’s take a look at the brands that are available that are known for making particularly safe trampolines for children and adults to use.

Editor’s Pick – Skywalker –

Far and away the most safety conscious brand available on the market, Skywalker has gone to great lengths to be at the forefront of safety. Not only were they among the first companies to employ safety nets as a standard feature on their trampolines, but they also have continued to invest time and effort into developing new features to keep their customers from unnecessary injury.

Among these new features are improved stabilization systems that keep the trampoline legs from lifting off the ground or tipping over.

Top Performer – Springfree –

The innovation that Springfree brings to the table is a trampoline with no springs. Rather than rely on the somewhat indiscriminate nature of springs, the Springfree rebounders have the mat directly attached to the enclosure and use a series of flexible rods to create a bounce.

The rods and the frame are designed to push bouncers back toward the center of the mat and away from edges that they might jump off of. These rods also reduce the amount of metal in the frame, making it far easier to take care of and reducing the parts that could rust.

Safest Trampoline For Adults – AlleyOop –

AlleyOop is heavily guided by their CEO, who wanted to create a trampoline that could be used by the entire family, so a lot of work was put into creating something that not only prevented falls, but also was easier on the joints and muscles.

The DoubleBounce system, for example, uses two mats that are interlocked in such a way as to reduce the shock of landing and create a softer bounce for people with knee or joint problems. Further, the triple fail net has several built in redundancies to ensure that bouncers don’t have to worry as much about product failure leading to serious injury.

Worth Considering – Jumpsport –

Jumpsport trampolines, while not at the level of Skywalker or AlleyOop as far as safety goes, do incorporate a number of features that make it unique and their products worth consideration. Perhaps the most notable of these is that the posts and parts of the frame are significantly thicker than most other brands.

This lends additional stability to the trampoline and makes it far less likely to tip or come up off the ground. Like other brands, their mats are designed to resist UV damage, meaning there is less chance of them becoming brittle in the sun.

Worth Considering – Upper Bounce –

What stands out about this company is their use of the Flex Pole system. This provides an easy way to install a net on your trampoline that is held close to the center of the mat so that you don’t have to worry about slipping through holes in the top or bottom of the enclosure.

It also comes with foam for its enclosure poles that can be set up so that they can be made of the same black coated steel as the rest of the frame without posing the risk of running into it due to a bad bounce. While not the top level of safety, Upper Bounce does take measures to prevent the most common kinds of injuries.

Other Things You Can Do to Ensure Your Own Safety

Ultimately, even the best trampoline can only do so much. Like the skateboarding and football pads, safety “stuff” can prevent most injuries, but not all of them.

Close Supervision

Start by controlling the conditions of use of the trampoline. Perhaps the biggest thing to do, as mentioned above, is to ensure that children are not using the trampoline unsupervised. While parents can’t keep an eye on their kids every second of every day, there are things that you can do to prevent unauthorized use such as removing ladders when they aren’t needed and locking the enclosure if there is a way to do so.

Positioning

Make sure that you place the trampoline in such a way as you won’t have to worry about where your child is bouncing. There should be approximately 4 feet of clear space above the ground and sufficient clear space around the trampoline on all sides.

Don’t place it up against a wall or fence, and make sure that it is clear of power lines or other hanging cables. You might not think that your child can bounce high enough to reach them or jump into the neighbor’s yard, but they will likely try and it’s possible they’ll succeed.

The area underneath a trampoline is not for storage. They are set so high off the ground because the act of downward motion forces the air beneath the mat to compress and it has to have plenty of cushion and a place to go. Putting things under the mat can make your bounce uneven and reduce elasticity, increasing the pressure on your body and making a bad landing more dangerous.

Weather Watch

Bear in mind weather conditions. You should never bounce during a storm, nor when the wind is particularly high since it very well could blow you or your child off course no matter how much they weigh. Make sure that the mat is dry when you’re using it since the polypropylene can become very slippery and cause even an experienced bouncer to lose their footing at the wrong time, such as when they descend from a high jump.

Another reason to not bounce during a storm is that the enclosure of your trampoline is not grounded. That means that it can electrocute you if it’s hit by lightening and you happen to be on it at the time. This is also why you shouldn’t bring lights, electric heaters, extension chords, or household appliances on the trampoline with you. While the area should be well-lit, for example, you shouldn’t clip shop lights to the top of your enclosure to accomplish that.

Only One Person At A Time

Unless it is specifically made for the purpose, only one person should be in the trampoline enclosure at a time. More than one person bouncing alters the direction of the mat when they hit, resulting in being flung in directions that they might not expect, including into one another. Flips and somersaults should also be avoided or prevented since they can result in head and neck injuries that could prove to be very serious.

Stay ON The Trampoline

Trampolines should not be used to bounce between things or onto other things. That includes jumping off of them onto the grass rather than climbing down, jumping into pools, jumping between trampolines, and jumping over fences or walls.

While it is tempting to do this, jumping that high and coming down can result in severe injury. Even controlled landings such as between trampolines or into swimming pools can turn out poorly if you miscalculate the distance or land on somebody who didn’t expect you to come flying at them.

Do Not Overexert Yourself

If you’re tired, you should stop bouncing. The trampoline isn’t going any place and people who are tired are more prone to make mistakes. You lose control of your limbs and the ability to make small corrections that can prevent bad bounces. Don’t be afraid to take breaks and rest your body until you’re ready to get back on the mat and bounce some more.

Finally, practice. There are a number of fundamental bounces that beginners can learn in order to get a sense of what you can do on a trampoline, and also learn skills like stopping yourself from bouncing or recovering from a bad bounce. Even these basic bounces can be exciting and a lot of fun, not to mention providing the foundation to learn more advanced techniques with time. However, like any sport, it takes work and effort to develop the skills needed for true mastery.

Safe Ways to Use a Trampoline – Advanced Jumpers

There are a ton of safe and fun things that you can do on a trampoline, especially in conjunction with gymnastics training.

Obviously, the basic bounce is a common choice for many people who are just starting or want to have an easy time of things. This involves simply bending your knees, jumping straight up, then landing back on your feet again.

A variation on this is the knee drop, which starts out the same but has you landing and bouncing on your knees instead. If you come down on all fours, that’s a knee and hand drop.

The front and seat drop are fairly self-explanatory in that you land and bounce either with the front of your body or in a seated position. These combined with the back drop can make for some really fun routines.

To really start mixing things up with foundational jumps, consider a half turntable, which starts in the front drop position, but has the bouncer pushing off to the side in order to rotate in mid-air. When this is done properly, the bouncer should be facing the other direction in the front drop position.

Similarly, swivel hips starts in a seat drop and uses your arms to give you enough lift to rise off the mat and rotate to land in a seat drop facing the opposite way from where you started.

Learning the basic jumps is not only fun, but a great way to practice the fundamentals of the sport without limiting yourself too much. In fact, it’s fairly easy and a lot of fun to attempt these without stopping the routine, improvising or choreographing something to perform for family or friends later.

From here, it’s easier to learn more advanced techniques that require more care but can still be a safe and exciting way to get the most out of a trampoline while also getting plenty of exercise.

Pulling it All Together

Finding the best trampoline for your child’s safety is a noble goal and something that all parents should strive for. However, it is also only part of the solution.

Start by picking a brand that is known for its safety features and make sure that you choose ones that are going to address the kinds of concerns that you’re likely to face. Keep in mind that there are plenty of options for some safety features and fewer for others, not to mention that some are designed with particular purposes (like family-oriented bouncing) in mind, so you should consider those as well before buying.

Once you have purchased the trampoline with the safety features that you’re looking for, make sure that you assemble it properly and double check that everything is in place. It’s usually good to have another person there to help out. Even if it can be assembled solo, have another person look over your work to make sure that you assemble everything properly.

After that, it’s up to you to ensure that safety is a priority. That means installing all of the safety equipment that comes with the trampoline. Consider buying extra stuff if you don’t feel that it comes with sufficient protection for you and your children. That also means double checking yourself so that you are sure that everything is put into place the way it should be. Don’t get lazy when it comes to installation.

Be sure to supervise your children when they’re bouncing and don’t hesitate to join with toddlers in if your trampoline can handle two people and you’re not above the weight limit. Don’t allow unsupervised bouncing if possible and take steps to prevent people from jumping on your trampoline when you’re not around.

Most importantly, don’t let the safety and rules keep you from having fun with your family. Most of what we’ve talked about is easy to do and won’t take away from the joy you can share with your loved ones. What it can do is turn a couple of minutes of work into the avoidance of hours at the hospital or worse. You wouldn’t let your kid go out on a rusty bicycle with no helmet, don’t let them jump on a rusty trampoline with no net.

With such a fear of trampolines going around, it’s a wonder that use of them continues to grow every year. That’s largely because the manufacturers have made an effort to alleviate those fears and provide real solutions that work to keep bouncers safe. The best trampolines, the ones that you want for your family, have made it as safe as possible so that you can be confident that you made the right choice.

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