Trampoline Use Jumps, Injuries Soar

This archived article is from April 2003. Although every effort has been made to make sure the information presented is accurate, please note that it may contain information that is out-of-date.

Jumping on a trampoline is fun and exhilarating. It also offers good physical exercise. Best of all, it doesn’t look like it involves a lot of skill. Trampolines are springing up in backyards across Canada as play equipment for school aged children.

A serious sport

More than just a recreational pastime, trampolining is a great form of aerobic exercise for athletic training.

During World War II, trampolines were used to train pilots and navigators in fitness and orientation. After the war, astronauts trained on trampolines to develop body positioning for space flight missions. Trampolining became an international sport and was introduced into school physical education programs to combine fitness and fun. However, US participation declined as trampolines were withdrawn from schools due to injury law suits.

For the first time in 2000, the Olympic Games featured trampoline gymnastics. The début of trampolining as an Olympic sport has made it even more popular.

In many countries, trampolines have long been considered a piece of sporting or gymnastic equipment that demands skill — and precautions. Professional trampoline organizations and clubs enforce strict rules. For example:

  • jumping must be supervised by professional spotters;
  • somersaults are only allowed with permission and supervision;
  • special trampolining footwear may be required; and
  • jewellery or articles that may catch on equipment are prohibited.

Child’s play?

Parents who buy a trampoline for their children often overlook the hazards, despite the safety precautions that come with the equipment.

In 2003, the first Canadian report to document trampolining trauma was published. From January 1996 to October 1997, the Winnipeg Children’s Hospital looked at 80 children who had been injured while using a backyard trampoline. The time period covered about eight months of trampolining weather. In many cases, the injured children had been using the trampoline in what was called an “imaginative” way, in one case jumping onto the trampoline from a roof. The report revealed a number of key findings:

  • Trampolining injuries slightly exceeded cycling-related admissions.
  • A parent was supervising in only eight of the 80 cases.
  • At least one other child was jumping on the mat in two-thirds of the cases.
  • Two-thirds of the injuries occurred on the mat itself.
  • Half of the injuries occurred at a neighbour’s home.
  • Three-quarters of the injuries involved fractures, mostly to the forearm, humerus and elbow. The most serious case was an eight-year-old boy who was paralyzed.

Data from the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP) showed that trampoline-related injuries almost quadrupled between 1990 and 1998. Almost 80 per cent of trampolining injuries were to children in the 5 to 14 age range. Most incidents were in the home environment, either the child’s own home or another home. An alarming 80 per cent of cases were unsupervised by a parent.

The Montreal Children's Hospital has reported that, between January and July 2004, its emergency room treated 40 trampoline-related injuries. The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario says it sees more than 50 patients a year for trampoline-related injuries.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has observed a similar trend. Trampoline injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms tripled during the 1990s, and there were 11 trampoline-related deaths.

The main causes of injuries are:

  • colliding with another jumper;
  • landing improperly while jumping or doing stunts;
  • falling or jumping off of the trampoline; and
  • falling onto the trampoline springs or frame and while attempting somersaults or other stunts.

Safety precautions

In 1999, a new CPSC-mandated standard for trampolines came into effect in the US. The standard specified that trampolines must have padding covering the frame, hooks and all springs, and must not come with ladders (to prevent access by young children). They must carry a label telling consumers not to let more than one person to jump at a time, and warning that somersaults can cause paralysis and death. In addition, a label on the box must state that trampolines over 20 inches tall are not recommended for children under six years of age. There are currently no Canadian regulations for trampolines.

Backyard trampolining can be an enjoyable and healthy activity for children if parents establish the rules, enforce them and take the necessary precautions.

First, make sure the equipment is safe.

  • Shock-absorbing pads must completely cover the springs, hooks and frame.
  • Do not allow a ladder or other device that would provide access by small children.
  • Place the trampoline away from structures, trees or other play areas.

Then, set three non-negotiable rules for the kids when they use the trampoline:

  • One person at a time.
  • No flips or somersaults.
  • Don't jump onto or off of the trampoline

Finally, make sure an adult is always present to supervise.