The trampoline conundrum: To buy, or not to buy & safe jumping tips
It’s a question that any parent is bound to face: “Mom, dad, can we get a trampoline?? Please???”
It’s a question we have pondered for years in our house, having one child who was practically born jumping. She’s 9 now, and still, when she gets excited about something she starts jumping up and down.
When she was a tiny toddler just learning to walk, we strapped her into a spring-loaded contraption that attached to the top of a doorway. She jumped up and down until her diaper was full. For her 3rd birthday, we filled my sister’s trampoline with balloons and zipped her in. A match made in heaven. We picked up a mini-exercise trampoline from a garage sale and she happily jumped on that for a while.
I was scared of big, bad trampolines, though. A friend who’s a doctor had one for a year before getting rid of it over safety concerns for his kids. We have another friend whose daughter broke her arm on a trampoline as a little girl.
Still, the idea of having our own trampoline has lurked in the recesses of all our minds. I have always loved them, and hop on myself when we go to people’s houses who own them. There’s something about that crazy sense of freedom that is just so appealing.
So, at the end of last school year – a challenging year for all of us for many reasons – we did it. I drove out to Dick’s Sporting Goods on a whim and came home with a brand spanking new trampoline and netting.
We’ve probably had it for 1.5 months and right now, I can say it’s one of the better investments we’ve made. Our daughter can jump for hours with friends and not even realize the amount of exercise she’s getting. I’ve seen muscles I didn’t know existed surface on her legs. She’s not on the computer as much. Neighborhood kids come over a lot more (it’s kind of like owning a puppy that way – you get a lot of attention).
She and I also have evening seat drop wars. I’ll tell you, I’m getting a workout, too. But I also jump very carefully – knowing my middle-aged joints could explode at any time.
Have there been mishaps? Yes. Two boys collided in midair resulting in a fat lip. A girl crashed into my daughter’s knee causing a sore windpipe. Am I concerned? Yes. Do I need to pay closer attention to who is on the trampoline and what they’re doing? Yes. Should every family own a trampoline? No. If you do, you better have some house rules.
- No flips or other crazy stunts.
- No more than three kids on at a time (this rule has been routinely violated).
- Must have door zipped.
Are we positively ensuring safety? No. It’s kind of like skiing. When you hit the slopes, you’re getting exercise and fresh air. You’re also putting yourself at risk.
I think the key is knowing whether your kids have enough common sense and are responsible enough to jump as safely as possible. Netting is essential. If we didn’t have it, a kid could easily careen into the side of our house, or, worse yet, through a window. I also think children should be at least age 7 or so to jump.
I will also admit to an overarching sense of nervousness when I hear kids squealing on the trampoline. If you’re the nervous parent type – or a person who likes quiet calm, think about that because kids yell, scream, squeal and make all manner of intense sounds when they’re jumping.
And just so you know, the American Academy of Pediatrics is against any and all home trampolines, since that’s where most injuries occur. And most people get hurt trying stunts, landing incorrectly, colliding with another person, or ending up on the ground.
The decision about whether to own a trampoline should be taken seriously. Here’s the scary fine print:
In 1996, an estimated 83,400 trampoline-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments, a rate of 31.5 injuries per 100, 000 population. The figures represent a 140 percent increase over the 1990 rate of injury.
More than 66 percent of victims were ages 5 through 14. Strains and sprains are the most common diagnosis, and were involved in 40 percent of the injuries. Fractures accounted for 30 percent of injuries. For the most severe injuries resulting in hospitalization, fractures (most frequently to the arm and leg) were diagnosed in almost 90 percent of the cases.
If you are still wanting to take the plunge, consider these tips from people who should know.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ safe jumping tips
- Use of trampolines for physical education, competitive gymnastics, diving training and other similar activities requires careful adult supervision and proper safety measures.
- Trampolines should not be used for unsupervised recreational activity. (My bad…)
- Competent adult supervision and instruction is needed for children at all times.
- Only one participant should use a trampoline at any time. (Uh oh, again)
- Spotters should be present when participants are jumping. Somersaults or high-risk maneuvers should be avoided without proper supervision and instruction; these maneuvers should be done only with proper use of protective equipment, such as a harness.
- The trampoline-jumping surface should be placed at ground level.
- The supporting bars, strings and surrounding landing surfaces should have adequate protective padding.
- Equipment should be checked regularly for safety conditions.
- Safety net enclosures may give a false sense of security – most injuries occur on the trampoline surface.
- Trampolines are not recommended for children under 6 years of age.
- Make sure trampoline ladders are removed after use to prevent unsupervised access by young children.
Now, the decision is yours. Let’s hear from the trampoline lovers and haters out there. To buy, or not to buy?
EdNews Parent editor Julie Poppen is a former daily newspaper journalist who has covered a multitude of school issues in Fort Collins, Boulder and Denver. She is also the mother of an almost-fifth grader in Boulder Valley and regular, though not always perfectly proficient, classroom volunteer. Read her weekly blog Confessions of a Partially Proficient Parent.