When I was first considering a trampoline for my family, I started by looking into what the doctors had to say about it. Particularly, the opinions of orthopedists were important to me, since it would be my children’s bones that were going to be primarily at risk when it came to jumping. They certainly had quite a bit to say as well.
Not Very Happy
To say that most doctors I read were not very happy about the proliferation of backyard trampolines would be an understatement. They each had their own pet peeves, but ultimately they felt that trampolines were generally unsafe and couldn’t be trusted in most cases.
In fact, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) has said unequivocally that, “Domestic and international research indicates that trampolines should not be used in the home environment, routine physical education classes, or in outdoor playgrounds.” This obviously made me worry a bit about agreeing to get a trampoline before doing the research.
Then I continued to read and learned that in many cases, what doctors tended to be afraid of was less the use of trampolines in general, but rather they feared he misuse of trampolines. Even further in their statement is the comment, “Safety information is given by manufacturers, retailers, medical groups and government authorities, but many owners fail to heed this advice. While safety measures may help minimize severe injuries, the amount of effort required to properly prepare a location, the diligence required to maintain the trampoline mat, springs and frame, and the degree of time and expertise required to properly supervise trampoline use are frequently lacking.”
I also found at least one statement by orthopedist Dr. Robert D. Galpin who said, “You can’t put kids in a glass bubble. They’re kids. But families go out and buy these things … and I have this pet peeve about more than one kid on a trampoline, just because of the nature of the trauma I’ve seen.” Galpin is right to worry about that, since not only can a bad bounce send two people flying into one another at high speed, but at its maximum stretch there is no difference between a trampoline mat and the ground, so one kid bouncing slightly behind another can fly up to ten feet in the air then land on a surface with no give, resulting in serious injury.
How to Reduce the Chance of Injuries
You can’t completely remove all injuries from trampolining, but you can significantly reduce the chances of it happening by observing and enforcing some basic rules.
1. No more than one person jumping at a time – This means that your kids will have to share and take turns, but having two or more people on the trampoline changes the shape of the mat, making it harder to compensate for bounces.
2. Having spotters actively watching the activity – Don’t let your kids play unsupervised. Make sure that you have people there actively watching them to make sure they’re not doing anything dangerous. This means no somersaults or bouncing off the enclosure net on purpose.
3. Make sure your child is at least six years of age – Children below the age of six should not be using trampolines. They are not responsible enough to understand the rules and their bodies are still developing in a way that the activity could cause damage. Even when your child is old enough, make sure they know the rules and can go over them with you regularly.
4. Make sure your safety equipment is sufficient and in good working order – There should not be metal parts on the frame or springs that are not covered by padding at least an inch thick. The safety enclosure net should be firmly attached to the frame or, preferably, the mat itself with no large holes that can be slipped through. All of the parts should be in good working order and not show signs of wear. If anything is broken it should be repaired or replaced immediately and before anybody else uses the trampoline.
Another thing you may want to check is whether your insurance covers trampoline injuries since many don’t as well as whether your home owner’s association allows them or requires you to sign a rider in order to own one.
After looking into everything, I decided that I was still comfortable getting my children a trampoline. I know that I will not be able to protect them perfectly, but I have enough confidence that they will follow the rules. While it is still possible that injuries can occur, following these tips from the AAOS can help reduce the chance enough that I am willing to make the effort to let them have one.