Trampoline Troubles

Backyard trampolines are popular, but beware, medical experts say. Trampoline injuries are on the rise.

Trampoline injury-related hospital visits during 2000-2005 increased by 113 percent over the number of visits from 1990-1995. And the injuries are serious, including fractures, concussions, and head injuries. Even more sobering are the serious spinal cord injuries and deaths that can occur with trampoline use. This rate is so alarming that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has taken a firm position: "The trampoline should never be used in home environments or in school physical education classes or outdoor settings or recreational settings."

"There are more than a half-million trampolines sold in the U.S. each year now," says Gary A. Smith, M.D. A member of the AAP, Dr. Smith also has authored several studies on trampoline injuries. He adds that in many of the injuries the parents were right there watching.

The majority of injuries are to arms and legs. Back and neck injuries can cause serious neurological damage.

"When a small child and a larger one use a trampoline simultaneously, the smaller one is easily injured by the mat coming up with great force," explains R. Dale Blasier, M.D., a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Most injuries occur on the trampoline, not from flying off of it, says Dr. Smith.

Trampoline injuries occur when colliding with another person, landing improperly while jumping or doing stunts, falling or jumping off, or falling on the trampoline spring or frame. Although safety nets and shock-absorbing pads that cover the springs, hooks, and frame may help prevent some injuries, the potential for serious injury while using a trampoline remains. The AAP advises parents never to purchase a home trampoline or allow children to use home trampolines.

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