As summer sets in, there’s one goal many parents share: getting kids off screens and electronics and out doing something active.
But if you think a backyard trampoline is the perfect solution, you’d be wrong – dangerously wrong.
“Parents say, ‘Look, I got my kids off the video games, off the iPhones and I got them outside,’” says Ahmed A. Bazzi, D.O., a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan. “Usually that’s a huge accomplishment.”
But when it comes to trampolines, “the risk absolutely outweighs” any potential health benefits, he says.
The perspective that parents don’t always grasp is the one Dr. Bazzi sees on a daily basis, often multiple times per day: kids showing up at the emergency room due to trampoline injuries.
“I’m actually taking care of somebody on a regular basis in the summertime because of it,” he says. “Just today alone I had three trampoline injuries. When I am on call on a typical summer weekend, I am almost guaranteed to have something that needs surgery from either trampolines or monkey bars. Those are kind of the two things that earn you a ticket to the OR, unfortunately.”
The way Dr. Bazzi sees it, trampolines are an easy and non-negotiable “no.” But in case you’re not convinced, here’s a look at five reasons to avoid trampolines:
1. ‘Safety features’ don’t make trampolines safe
Newer trampoline models tend to boast safety features like netting, hidden springs or specially-designed mats. But don’t get a false sense of security, Dr. Bazzi urges.
“I almost feel like these trampoline companies are selling it like these trampolines are safer,” he says.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against recreational trampoline use, pointing out high injury rates and the fact that nets and padding don’t seem to significantly decrease the risk of injury.
“It’s there, it’s in plain sight,” Dr. Bazzi says of the risk of trampoline injuries. “There is plenty of evidence-based medicine which supports it.”
2. Serious injuries are common
In addition to less severe sprains and contusions, serious injuries from trampoline use are also possible and often related to flips and bad landings.
“The more concerning injuries are the ones that involve the head and neck. With neck injuries a child can be severely injured or even paralyzed,” Dr. Bazzi says. Life-threatening or limb-threatening injuries are also possible. “It can be significantly devastating, no doubt.”
Parents should also know that the impact of a bounce, especially if an adult and child are bouncing together, can be anything but “soft and cushy” depending on how you land.
“The force exerted on the ankle from the trampoline has been shown to be equivalent to jumping from a second story window,” he notes.
3. Increased risk among younger kids
While very young children aren’t typically trying the risky stunts older kids might attempt, they’re still at high risk for injuries in part because of their immature motor skills and growing bones. Jumping on a trampoline can cause injuries to a child’s growth plates – the areas of soft tissue near the ends of kids’ bones – which can lead to long-term problems with bone growth down the line.
“They’re basically little bone forming machines,” Dr. Bazzi says of children’s growth plates. “If the growth plate is disrupted at 4 years old, they still have 10 to 12 years to go. The reason we focus on the growth plates so much is this is where the bone grows from. The bone may grow crooked or may have a leg length discrepancy.”
4. Be careful at indoor trampoline parks, too
Dr. Bazzi acknowledges that indoor trampoline parks seem to be “the coolest, hottest things around” among kids. But even with watchful staff and rules in place, parents still need to be careful at these parks to avoid injuries, he says.
5. The impact of trampoline injuries
Beyond the pain and trauma kids can experience from a trampoline injury, parents should know about the longer-term impact that could follow. Many injuries require surgery or multiple surgeries, others could involve physical therapy and many kids will miss time in school or sports during their recovery.
“If there’s an injury that needs to be protected, sometimes they’re out of sports for about three months,” Dr. Bazzi explains. “That can impact their ability to participate in team sports.”
Important precautions to take
If you already have a trampoline or know your child will be using one at a friend’s house, enforce a one-jumper-at-a-time rule and know that no safety features can replace parental supervision.
“Netting is no substitute for adult supervision and adult supervision isn’t being in the vicinity. An adult has to be present to supervise the actual activity,” Dr. Bazzi points out. “Don’t let the netting and the padding be a replacement to an observant adult supervisor who can enforce the rules and keep the kids separated.”