Trampolines are perhaps the most controversial piece of play equipment ever invented for children. Some safety advocates suggest that children not be permitted to use trampolines at all. We’re more liberal in our views and believe the decision should be left up to parents, so long as they understand the risks. (All things are dangerous, including eating and breathing; it’s a matter of whether you are comfortable with the risks for the tradeoff your children receive in return.)
Anyone who’s ever watched the steady stream of trampoline videos pour into YOUTUBE or America’s Funniest Home Videos is well aware that things on a trampoline often go wrong. We watch and laugh as someone tumbles off the side or falls right through. What we don’t see are the clips where the injury was serious enough that it loses its humor. More than 88,000 kids visited the ER in 2008 because of trampoline injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. These injuries ranged from dislocated joints, broken bones and knocked out teeth to serious spinal injuries, paralysis, and death.
Child injuries on trampolines
There are several ways children can be injured on trampoline:
- They can fall off the side of a trampoline.
- They can land wrong after jumping.
- They can collide with others while jumping.
- They can be sitting or laying and have another child jump onto them, or they could injure themselves jumping on another child.
- They could get their ankle caught in the springs.
- They could fall through a rip in the fabric.
Child Safety Rules for Trampolines
There is no way to make a trampoline safe, says Michael Turner, M.D., a pediatric neurosurgeon. The best parents can do is to try and make them safer. If you do not want to give up the family trampoline, the following precautions are an absolute must:
- You ABSOLUTELY MUST install a safety net on your trampoline to keep kids from tumbling off the side. A fall from an errant jump straight to the ground is plenty large enough to be fatal or render your child a quadriplegic. Children can reach jump heights of anywhere from 5 to 15 feet, and when you combine this with the 5 feet or so off the ground a trampoline normally is, you’re easily into life-threatening fall height. Letting kids use a trampoline without a side safety net is as irresponsible as letting them ride in a car without a seatbelt. It’s a gamble that just isn’t worth it. Install the safety nets, or toss the trampoline.
- Your trampoline ABSOLUTELY MUST have covers for the hinges so that children don’t get their leg caught.
- Monitor the fabric of the trampoline to check for cuts, holes, fraying, or tears. The fabric WILL ware down, especially in certain types of hot, dry climates. Once fraying starts, a large tear can take place with one misplaced jump, and your child will be hitting the ground.
- You should be aware that if a neighbor child injures themselves on your trampoline, you could be held liable.
Trampoline safety rules for kids:
- Limit the jumpers allowed on at one time. Some safety advocates say allow only one at a time. We’ve worked with children before and realize this may be an unrealistic guideline for some families that will go over about as well as buying one child ice cream and then letting them eat it in front of the other without problems. Just keep in mind that the more jumpers you have at one time, the greater the likelihood of an injury. The safety threshold depends as much on the size of the jumpers and HOW children are jumping as it does with how many are jumping, so if you allow multiple jumpers, you’ll have to play it by instinct. We would suggest you try to limit the jumpers to two or three at a time, and monitor closely. If things get too out of hand or reckless, it might be time to start removing jumpers.
- Make a no somersaults rule, since somersaults and other stunts are a leading contributor to injuries.
- Keep age groups segregated. Allowing a mixture of bigger kids with littler ones is just asking for an injury. Not only does it put the little kids at a disadvantage in a collision, but a larger child can launch a smaller one into the air by jumping at just the right moment. A 5-year-old who is only comfortable jumping six to twelve inches may suddenly find herself 6 feet in the air.
- Limit trampoline time for kids under six, since their joints may be less equipped to handle the stress.
- If you insist on ignoring rule #1 in the prior heading, use an adult spotter at all times. A spotter will not make it safe and could not hope to safely catch a child in every case, but it’s better than nothing. A soft surface around the trampoline is also recommended.