The Dangers of Trampolines – My True Confession


Do As I Say, Not As I Do. . .

To all the safety conscious viewers who are watching this video aghast, I feel like I owe you an explanation (and defense).  First, I love guidelines.  I obsess over them to the point that my colleagues urge me to think for myself and stop being an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) drone.  Unless I have a compelling reason to do otherwise, I adhere to them religiously.  I love you AAP!

That being said, it seems like the AAP has spent the last two months ruining all of our fun.  First, they reminded us that they recommend against use of trampolines.  Then, they published the frequency of bounce house related injuries in the US – and it’s rising.

So, here are my thoughts.  Safety is really, really important.  My wife calls me “safety police;” I have a laundry list of “cautionary tales” that will emerge on this blog in the coming months when my recommendations are not followed (frequent).   I spend hours in the car attaching all 15 straps that came with the kids’ car seats to various fixed parts of the car, then hours taking them back out to put them in the other car.   That’s just a little context for the following thoughts.

The trampoline guidelines say in short: 100,000 kids come to ERs with trampoline injuries every year, 3,000 of them with serious injuries requiring at least overnight hospital admission.  The various safety mechanisms that manufacturers have put into place (nets, pads etc.) have not generated a significant decrease in injuries (although if more people are jumping on trampolines today than 10-20 years ago  – which isn’t known, the slight decrease in injuries over that time period might actually indicate a significant improvement in safety – that is, a significant drop in injuries per trampoline jumper).   Thus, the AAP recommends against recreational trampoline use.  For those knuckleheads that are going to do it anyway (me), they should follow the following instructions (here are the highlights):

1)   One jumper at a time
2)   Maintain trampoline and padding
3)   Don’t do crazy flips and whatnot
4)   Adults should supervise

Part 2: The bounce house data demonstrates a rapid increase in the number of bounce house injuries in the past 15 years and a significant number of them (4500) were concussions (so not just strains and sprains).  While the one child every 46 minutes that reports to the ER with a bounce house injury pales in comparison to the frequency of ER visits for bicycle injuries or playground injuries (every 3-4 minutes by my back of the envelope calculation based on this), it demonstrates that the increased popularity of bounce houses (can you really have a birthday party without one?) is resulting in increased incidence of injury (usually due to falling or running into someone), sometimes serious.  The paper  (which is not an AAP policy) suggests increased research to create more specific guidelines for bounce house use and design and perhaps an AAP Policy similar to the trampoline guidelines above.

So anyway – all very important things.   You, dear reader, will hopefully factor this into the calculated risks that you take every day when your kids get in a car, ride a bike or go to the playground.  I understand that this can be a little confusing – how big a risk is 10,000 injuries a year or 100,000 – most of them minor?  What do those numbers even mean?  How do we decide which risks to take and which exceed the arbitrary threshold that we have set for ourselves and our families?  I don’t have that answer. If you are going to take a risk and let your kids play on a trampoline or bounce house, you are now aware that this is not a risk-free proposition, and you will hopefully engage the activity with a certain degree of thoughtfulness – and a careful eye on your kids (and that “wild kid” that always seems to cause trouble!).

That all said, now please watch the video and see what a bad parent I am.   Here is what happens when you do everything wrong.  Let’s see, there is no net, a little kid jumping, a bigger kid (me) jumping and lots of people (and an even littler kid) all over the trampoline.  At least there is real adult supervision – that was my mom catching Caleb as he hurtled through the air.  And just so you know, he wasn’t actually hurt.

That is not my house, by the way, it is the house of unnamed relatives who have had the trampoline with a decent (not perfect) safety record over the past twenty years or so.  There have been more concussions and orthopedic injuries on their playground equipment than the trampoline (for what it’s worth).  However, you might question the safety of some of the playground equipment too, but that’s another story. . . I’m going to stop before I get in trouble.

Anyway, enjoy, think, share, and don’t be too hard on me!  I’ve learned my lesson.  I’ve learned my lesson!!!!

And for my grand finale, (thanks to Time Magazine) the world-famous Dr. Bill Sears on a trampoline.  Pretty sweet set-up he’s got.

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