Sept. 24, 2012 -- Bouncing on a backyard trampoline is a lot of fun for kids, but a doctors' group is warning parents that the risks may not be worth it.
An updated policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says trampolines can cause serious injuries to children. The group says it strongly discourages parents from letting their kids use a home trampoline.
The statement is published in the October edition of Pediatrics.
"One-third to one-half of all trampoline-related injuries happened with an adult supervising trampoline use," says Susannah Briskin, MD, a co-author of the policy statement. "If injuries are still occurring, adults are likely not appropriately monitoring behavior on the mat."
A Closer Look at the Risks
The data in the policy statement show that little children are more likely to get hurt on trampolines. But older children are more likely to try some of the more risky moves, like attempting somersaults. These moves can cause serious harm to the neck and may lead to paralysis.
The AAP found that some injuries -- including broken bones and bruising -- were caused by kids trying to do flips or falling on the frame or off the trampoline.
The policy statement also reports that:
- In 2009 there were 97,908 trampoline injuries that resulted in 3,100 hospitalizations.
- Smaller children were 14 times more likely to get hurt than bigger children.
- Head and/or neck injuries accounted for up to 17% of all trampoline injuries and can cause the most damage; permanent neurologic damage occurs in 1 out of every 200 trampoline-related injuries.
- About 75% of trampoline injuries occur when multiple people are jumping on the mat.
- Forty-eight percent of injuries among children age 5 and younger were fractures and dislocations.
- Twenty percent of trampoline injuries were caused by hitting the frame or the springs. Researchers say trampoline pads deteriorate quickly, putting children at risk of hurting themselves on the frames and springs.
- Netting around the trampoline did not protect kids from injury.
More Advice for Parents
The AAP says that trampoline parks may not follow the same rules and recommendations suggested by the AAP, and that trampolines used for instructional sports need appropriate supervision and safety measures. The AAP also suggests homeowners with trampolines should check that their insurance policies cover trampoline injury-related claims.
Ruth Borgen, MD, medical director of the pediatric emergency department at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, says the AAP's updated recommendations do not come as a surprise to her.
"We see broken bones and bruises, or kids who fall off the trampoline and break an arm," she says. "I tell my patients the recommendations from AAP -- that you're at high risk for injury. The little kids aren't as coordinated. Their heads are bigger than their bodies so they're more likely to land on their heads."
Borgen's advice for parents: "Don't send a 3-year-old on to a trampoline with a 10-year-old because the 10-year-old is going to fall on the 3-year-old and the 3-year-old will probably get hurt. Be cautious. Be smart. Don't live in a bubble, but be realistic. Explain to your child how to play safe."
Adam Vella, MD, director of pediatric emergency medicine at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, says there are plenty of alternatives for kids to stay physically active and have fun in a safe way.
"Something like this should be avoided altogether," Vella says. "When a kid fractures or dislocates a limb, that's six to eight weeks of not being able to use that limb. I don't think there's really any way to make trampolines safe. There are certain things that are not worth the risk, and trampoline use we would put in that category. There are other forms of play, whether it's bike riding or soccer or whatever, you want to do with the child."