Kids love them, pediatricians hate them, and parents buy them in hopes that their children will go outside and get some exercise. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued an official policy statement in which the AAP concluded that “the home use of trampolines is strongly discouraged.” Trampoline injuries have been increasing in recent years: between 2008 and 2017, there was a 3.85% increase in pediatric fractures per year. This is the equivalent of an increase from 35.3 per 100,000 people to 53.0 per 100,000. Most injuries occur in the legs, but the most severe injuries result from head and neck trauma.
Flight risk (pt. 1): What’s hurting trampoline users and how can they protect themselves?
The six primary causes of trampoline injury are the following:
- multiple simultaneous users
- falls from the trampoline
- impact with the trampoline frame and springs
- use of trampolines by children five years old or younger
- the performing of somersaults, flips and other “tricks”
- lack of adult supervision.
Furthermore, studies on the effectiveness of additional padding or net enclosures to prevent personal injury have not shown demonstrable increases in safety. Finally, “trampoline parks” or commercial trampoline venues appear to present the same types of safety concerns as home trampolines. A CNN news story reported that one trampoline park in Bellevue, Washington, has had 18 families bring personal injury lawsuits for trampoline related injuries.
While the AAP would prefer that families avoid trampolines, the Academy made the following recommendations for those families that desire to continue to use home trampolines:
- Trampoline use should be restricted to a single jumper on the mat at any given time.
- Trampolines should have adequate protective padding that is in good condition and appropriately placed.
- Trampolines should be set at ground level whenever possible or on a level surface and in an area cleared of any surrounding hazards.
- Frequent inspection and appropriate replacement of protective padding, net enclosure, and any other damaged parts should occur.
- Trampolines should be discarded if replacement parts are unavailable and the product is worn or damaged.
- Somersaults and flips should not be performed in the recreational setting (these tricks are among the most common causes of permanent and devastating cervical spine injuries).
- Active supervision by adults familiar with the above recommendations should occur at all times. Supervising adults should be willing and able to enforce these guidelines. Mere presence of an adult is not sufficient.
- Parents should confirm that these guidelines are in place anytime their child is likely to use a trampoline.
- Homeowners should verify that their insurance policies cover trampoline-related claims. Coverage is highly variable and a rider may need to be obtained.
Flight risk (pt. 2): Who’s liable?
In addition to safety issues, trampolines pose a liability threat to homeowners, especially if the injured person is an invited guest or is a child that may have been enticed onto the trampoline as an attractive nuisance. Victims of trampoline accidents and injuries may be entitled to recover damages against the property owner and/or manufacturer of the trampoline. These claims could involve millions of dollars where devastating injuries such as paralysis or traumatic brain injury occurred.
If you are thinking about purchasing a trampoline, stop and think again. Even the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued safety alert on trampolines. If you already own a trampoline, consider getting rid of it (but don’t give it away or sell it, put it in the dumpster). If you insist on getting or keeping a trampoline, you should at a minimum follow the AAP recommendations listed above. And make sure your homeowner’s insurance covers the trampoline, and that you have sufficient limits to cover injuries that may result, so that you will not be personally financially at risk if serious injury to a guest occurs. Whether you decide to have a trampoline or not, be aware that they can be very dangerous under the best circumstances, and inevitably tragic under the worst.