Bouncing up and down on a backyard trampoline may seem to personify the joy and freedom of summer. But bouncing can lead to big trouble for kids if proper safety precautions aren't taken.
"Bouncing on a trampoline is a lot of fun for kids," says Marie M. Lozon, M.D., director of Children's Emergency Services at the University of Michigan Health System.
"But over the past 10 to 15 years, we've seen a significant increase in trampoline injuries, ranging from horribly broken legs to ankle sprains, or in some cases, serious head and spine injuries. And kids age 15 and under account for nearly two-thirds of all trampoline injuries."
While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that trampolines never be used at home, school or on outdoor playgrounds, Lozon and other experts recognize that many families with children will continue to allow the recreational use of trampolines at home.
To keep those children and teens safely bouncing this summer, Lozon offers some tips to help prevent injury while using a trampoline.
Lozon's 7 tips for safe trampoline fun for kids and teens:
Don't forget mom and dad. Lozon says that adult supervision is the most important safety measure for trampolines. "Children will come up with very imaginative and create ways to injury themselves on trampolines, so constant supervision is a must," she notes.
One jumper at a time. Multiple jumpers can multiply the risk for injury. Children doing flips and other stunts have an increased likelihood of colliding with others too, causing serious injury, she says.
Age matters. Children under the age of 6 should not be allowed on trampolines. Lozon notes that several expert panels have determined that children 6 years or older may be safer on trampolines.
Leave the gymnastics to the professionals. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Counsel cautions against doing somersaults on trampolines because landing on the head or neck can cause paralysis.
Location, location, location. Lozon cautions to never place trampolines on concrete or near power lines, trees or any other obstacle that could come into contact with a bouncing child.
Use a safety net. Trampoline enclosures can help prevent injuries from falls.
Pad it for protection. "Other ways to make trampoline use more safe is to cover the springs, hooks and frame that suspend the mat of the trampoline with a soft material, or completely cover them with a mat around the edge to avoid injury," says Lozon.
"A lot of people say well gosh, I don't want to have a backyard trampoline, but isn't there any way my kid could participate?' Well, there are opportunities that include adult supervision and appropriate spotters in athletic environments, such as gymnastics training or diving training, where a lot of fun can be had," recommends Lozon.
Not convinced that trampoline safety should be taken seriously? Here are some of the top injuries that can occur when proper safety measures aren't taken when using a trampoline.
Common trampoline injuries:
Sprains and strains of the ankles, feet, wrists and arms
Broken ankles, legs or arms
Minor head injuries
In some cases, broken necks, spinal cord injuries and disabling head traumas occur, which could result in permanent paralysis
Causes of trampoline injuries, according to the
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
Colliding with another person on the trampoline
Landing improperly while jumping or doing stunts
Falling or jumping off the trampoline
Falling on the trampoline springs or frame