Trampoline Injuries

June 22, 2014

Trampoline accidents caused more than 1 million people in the U.S. to visit hospital emergency rooms in the past ten years, at a cost of more than $1 billion, according to an April 2014 study in the online Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics.
Shocking numbers? You bet.
The injury toll from 2002-11 included nearly 289,000 people, mostly children, with broken bones at emergency department costs of more than $400 million, according to the Indiana University School of Medicine.
“About 60 percent of those fractures occurred in the upper extremities, such as hands, fingers, forearms and elbows. Lower-extremity fractures were most common in the lower legs and ankles. The spine, head, and ribs accounted for about 4 percent of the fractures, and there were about 2,800 spinal injuries during the study period,” reports said.
The emergency room visit numbers in the ten year study ranged from 40,000 in 1991 to 110,000 in 2004 and 80,000 in 2011. Though decreasing from the peak in 2004, there are still too many injuries.
Penn Highlands Healthcare is no exception when it comes to seeing trampoline accidents, according to Dr. Joseph Clark, Regional Medical Director of Emergency Medicine at Penn Highlands Healthcare. 

“With summer months approaching, we see more and more pediatric injuries in general, but trampoline injuries are seen at a high percentage,” he said. “Simple things can be done to prevent these injuries such as making sure safety equipment is installed, screens are used to prevent falls off the trampoline, etc.  Following recommended limits for how many can be on the trampoline is very important.”

But, he said, “it can’t be stressed enough however that adult supervision is the key thing that is the best for prevention of childhood injuries."
Most trampoline injuries, 75 percent, occur when multiple people are jumping on the mat. The smallest and youngest participants are usually at greater risk for significant injury, specifically children 5 years of age or younger. Forty-eight percent of injuries in this age group resulted in fractures or dislocations.
Common injuries in all age groups include sprains, strains and contusions. Falls from a trampoline accounted for 27-39 percent of all injuries and can potentially be catastrophic.
In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, cautioned against home trampoline use.  Accidents still happen under adult supervision, and safety equipment can give a false sense of safety, it said. So the key recommendation from AAP since 1999 remains consistent: don’t have recreational trampolines.
But most parents aren’t going to give up their children’s trampolines, Clark said, and that is realized by the AAP and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, or AAOS. They, along with Clark, offer these guidelines:
Trampolines should be set at ground level whenever possible or on a level surface and in areas cleared of any surrounding hazards. 
Competent adult supervision and instruction is needed for children at all times. 
Only one participant should use a trampoline at any time. 
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. 
Failed attempts at somersaults and flips frequently cause cervical spine injuries, resulting in permanent and devastating consequences. Don’t encourage them.
The supporting bars, strings and surrounding landing surfaces should have adequate protective padding. 
Equipment should be checked regularly for safety conditions. 
Trampolines used for a structured sports training program should always have appropriate supervision, coaching, and safety measures in place.
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. 
Homeowners with a trampoline should verify that their insurance covers trampoline injury-related claims.

June is National Safety Month, but safety concerns are year round. Following precautions is always best, and having fun shouldn’t end in a trip to the Emergency Department.