For some reason kids like to bounce up and down. That makes jumping on beds a popular but largely frowned-upon indoor activity.
It may also explain the increased popularity, in recent years, of trampolines. Though they are largely unregulated, trampoline sales are up and you see more of them in back yards and on playgrounds. Doctors are horrified.
“Despite previous recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discouraging home use of trampolines, recreational use of trampolines in the home setting continues to be a popular activity among children and adolescents,” AAP said in a recent policy statement.
New research from the Indiana University School of Medicine found trampoline-related accidents sent more than 288,000 people, mostly children, to hospital emergency rooms (ER) with broken bones from 2002 to 2011. The total bill? $400 million.
1 million injuries
If you count all the injuries – not just fractures – more than 1 million trampoline users made unscheduled trips to the ER during that time, costing just over $1 billion.
"There have not been any large-scale studies of these injuries," said Dr. Randall Loder, the study's lead author. "We wanted to document the patterns of injury. This gives us an idea of the magnitude of the problem across the country."
According to the study, what starts out as fun often ends up in serious injury. About 60% of the fractures were upper-extremity injuries, notably fingers, hands, forearms and elbows.
Lower-extremity fractures are also quite common. Things like breaks in the lower leg -- the tibia and fibula -- and ankles.
A smaller percentage of the injuries are extremely serious, with fractures of the spine, head, ribs and sternum. Over 10 years nearly 3,000 people were treated for broken spines as the result of a trampoline accident.
According to the AAP policy statement, most trampoline injuries occur with multiple simultaneous users on the mat. Spine injuries may occur when someone falls off the trampoline or makes an ill-fated attempt at somersaults or flips.
"Fortunately, there were fewer spine injuries than might have been expected, but those can be catastrophic," said Meagan Sabatino, clinical research coordinator for pediatric orthopedic surgery and a study co-author.
While the average age for most of the injuries was about 9, the average age for more serious axial skeleton injuries was substantially higher at 16.6 years old.
"They're probably jumping higher, with more force," Loder said.
Loder attributes part of that to the fact that teenagers tend to be risk-takers. Younger children might be unaware of the potential danger of their actions, but when then are aware they take fewer risks.
"Teenagers, they'll just push the limit," Loder said.
The study found that trampoline-related ER visits rose through the 1990s and peaked in 2004. Since then, they've declined – but not as much as doctors would like. For his part, Loder would like to see trampolines banned.
"I think trampolines should not be allowed in backyards. It's that simple," he said. "It's a significant public health problem."
Victims urged to sue
As an interim step, the Foundation for Spinal Cord Injury Prevention (FSCIP) is urging litigation as a way to discourage the use of trampolines.
“If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury as a result of a trampoline accident, you should consult with a lawyer as soon as possible to determine your legal rights,” FSCIP says. “An accident that may appear to be no ones fault or your own fault could still result in economic recovery for you.”
The foundation says people injured in a trampoline accident may be unaware of all the factors contributing to the accident, and the liability of other parties “can be a complicated point of law.”