Report Warns of Trampoline Dangers

Pediatric organization advises against any recreational trampoline use.

September 21, 2012, 2:24 PM

Sept. 24, 2012— -- Jennifer Amaral, 31, of Wilmington, Mass., remembered the joys of owning her own trampoline as a teenager. Her daily after school routine was to jump for hours.

"Almost every house on our street had one," said Amaral. "I did read the cautions, but kids will be kids, and I really did not think there was a danger."

At age 18, Amaral found herself having to wear a leg cast after a wrong landing on a routine bounce.

"I fractured my right ankle jumping on a trampoline, not doing anything crazy, just jumping up and down" said Amaral, adding she was jumping by herself. "I came down on it sideways with my foot tucked in."

Amaral's injury healed after six weeks, but for many jumpers with more serious wrong landings, an injury can lead to paralysis, or even death.

An estimated 98,000 trampoline-related injuries occurred in 2009, resulting in 3,100 hospitalizations, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Head and neck trauma account for 17 percent of injuries.

While the number of trampoline-related injuries has steadily decreased since 2004, the American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirmed its position Monday, advising against any recreational trampoline use.

This latest policy statement pulls away from previous reports, which regarded structured forms of trampoline use, such as competitive sports or for training, as risky as recreational uses.

In most cases, safety measures taken to reduce injuries don't work, according to the policy report published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. Enclosed netting and padding have not been enough to significantly reduce the number of people who are getting hurt, the report concluded.

"There was a trend downward in the number of injuries, but it was the same time trampoline sales decreased," said Dr. Susannah Briskin, pediatric sports medicine specialist at University Hospitals in Cleveland and co-author of the paper. "So we don't think adding padding or knitting to the frame is protecting against any injuries."

Also, most injuries occur on the bouncy mat of the trampoline, not on the perimeter or by falling off of the trampoline, according to Dr. Michele LaBotz, executive committee member for the council on sports medicine and fitness for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and lead author of the policy statement.

Even adult supervision has not prevented injuries. Briskin said that in order for their presence to make a difference, adults needed to monitor how the trampoline was being used.

"We know that trampolines tend to be used in an inappropriate fashion recreationally," said Briskin. "So using them for stunts puts someone at greater risk."

Children under age 5 are at the highest risk for injury, especially when there are multiple jumpers. Almost 50 percent of injuries in kids less than 5 years old resulted in fracture or dislocation, not to mention the disastrous consequences of landing on your neck.

But a person at any age who chooses to hop on may be at risk, according to the report. Jumpers are 14 times more likely to get injured when there is more than one person on board.

Of particular concern, according to Briskin, are indoor trampoline parks, which have gained popularity in recent years.

"There is typically always more than one user in those instances," she said. "We have no data about the safety of these facilities."

Still, it's not known how much safer it is if there's only a single jumper, Briskin acknowledged.

"Haven't jumped since on a trampoline, or one of those air-bounce houses," said Amaral. She said she tried to jump shortly after her injury but was too frightened that she'd hurt herself again. Amaral said she didn't plan on ever owning a trampoline again in the future.

However, it's more likely that many who have been hurt will jump again, and the renewed policy may not change many minds.

"We acknowledge the fact that people are going to continue to use trampolines," said Briskin.

To minimize risk, LaBotz recommended having one jumper at a time and avoiding any stunts and somersaults.

"The key thing to not do is to not let there be more than one person on the mat at the same time, especially of different sizes," said LaBotz. "It's the recoil of the mat that produces the greatest impact, especially on the smallest child."

Trampolines, which typically have a five-year warranty, should be inspected regularly. In most cases, the netting and padding only have a one-year life span before they begin to wear and tear.

"I just tell parents that not everything that's fun is safe," she said. "People need to think twice before using a trampoline."

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