The Academy released online an updated statement on recreational trampoline use in late September, and although there has been a consistent decline in the rates of injury in the last eight years, the most reliable estimate is that as recently as 2009, there were still almost 98,000 injuries related to trampolines, putting 3,100 people in the hospital. Not surprisingly, the rate is highest for children, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the injury rate remained high even with netting or padding, and many mishaps taking place while the activity was reportedly adult supervised. About three-quarters of these accidents occurred with more than one jumper, especially with the younger children. As would be expected, the most serious, even devestating injury– to the head and the cervical spine– was the result of somersaults, flips, and falls.
These frightening head and neck injuries account for 10%-17%, with some small fraction of these leaving permanent neurologic consequences. Most of the head injuries resulted from falls, neck injuries from falls or from impact onto the mat during flips. There are a variety of other injury locations, including fractures of the lower leg, fractures and dislocation of the breastbone, dangerous tears of a major artery to the brain, and disruption of the alignment of the vertebrae of the neck.
The report did, of course, include some recommendations on use of trampolines. Leadoff advice: recreational trampoline ownership and use is best simply avoided, and parents should realize that current safety measures have disappointingly not significantly reduced the incidence of injury, serious and less serious. For families that do own trampolines and allow their children (and others’) to use them, the jumping should be limited to one participant on the mat at a time, adequate and maintained protective padding should be in place, and that the trampoline should be set up at ground level, on a level surface, and in a widely cleared area. There should be frequent inspection and replacement of damaged padding, nets, etc., and the trampoline should be discarded if good maintainance is not possible because of lack of parts availablity. There should always be alert, active, and enforced adult supervision, and somersaults and flips, the riskiest maneuvers for serious, even catastrophic injury, should not be permitted in a recreational trampoline setting. Perhaps to underscore the risks assumed (and stimulate some parental reconsideration) , the recommendations include advising owners to be sure their homeowner’s insurance policy covers claims related to trampoline injuries.
The article also commented on the safety of “trampoline parks” and similar facilities, advising that caretakers should be exercising the same precautions for their children in these settings as limited safety research and uniformity of these precautions cannot currently provide the reassurance of safe use.
Source: AAP updated policy statement, “Trampoline Safety in Childhood and Adolescence,” published in Pediatrics, October 2012, lead author Michele LaBotz, M.D.