To Your Health
October, 2008 (Vol. 02, Issue 10)
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Painful Playtime?

By Claudia Anrig, DC

Kids love to bounce on trampolines; the feeling of flying in the air performing flips, twists and turns, the pride of learning new tricks and bouncing around - it's all so much fun! Until they get hurt, of course.

Trampolines first became popular in the early 1960s when people were stretching fabric over large holes in the ground.  Then the fabric was put on legs or poles, but these left dangerously large gaps around the edges and there was nothing to stop a jumper from falling off. Modern designs are supposedly safer by ringing the trampoline with netting, but this hasn't done much to decrease the number of injuries.

How Serious Is the Injury Risk?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued warnings in 1977, 1981 and 1999, emphasizing the dangers of trampolines and recommending they not be used in the home or as part of physical education courses at schools. Despite these warnings, visits to emergency rooms skyrocketed between 1990 and 2005.

A 1998 article in Science Daily reported that 250,000 trampoline-related injuries were treated in hospital ERs between 1990 and 1995. The annual number of injuries had grown from 29,600 to 58,400 per year. A 1998 report in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery revealed 43 percent of all injuries were sustained by children between the ages of 5 and 9, while 28 percent were sustained by children between the ages of 10 and 14. Even more distressing is that more than 15 percent of injuries were suffered by children under the age of 4.

image - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Pediatric Neurosurgery reported in 2000 that trampolines were responsible for more than 6,500 pediatric cervical spine injuries in 1998. In 2001, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimated there were 91,870 ER visits due to trampoline-related injuries. Of those injured, 93 percent of the victims were under the age of 15 and 11 percent were under the age of 5. The CPSC has further reported that since 1990, there have been 11 deaths, six of which involved children under the age of 15.

Startling Statistics

Consumer Reports released a study in 2004 stating that 98,000 people were treated in ERs because of trampoline use in 2003. More than 50,000 of these cases were children. The AAP released the latest numbers from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) in 2007. The study relied on data from 2000-2005 to estimate the number of ER visits for trampoline-related injuries by children under the age of 18. It then compared that with the data obtained from 1990 to 1995. Results showed there were an estimated 41,600 ER visits per year from 1990 to 1995, compared with an estimated 88,563 visits per year from 2000 to 2005 - an increase of 133 percent. The authors of the study believe more needs to be done to educate the public about the dangers of home trampoline use. They further state that more extreme measures need to be taken to stop parents from purchasing this apparatus that has proven to be so dangerous.

Should Trampolines Be Banned?

Studies have proven that education about trampoline risks has not helped to reduce the number of injuries. In fact, the number of injuries has increased exponentially each year, leading the AAP to characterize trampoline injuries among children as an "epidemic" and to recommend banning them from home use entirely.