Backyard trampolines are kid magnets, and with the rising popularity of trampoline parks, more youngsters than ever have access to this potentially hazardous activity.
Despite recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics to avoid trampolines for recreational use because of the injury risk, their popularity persists. Children continue to jump, somersault and flip with approximately 100,000 of them each year landing in emergency departments suffering from sprains and fractures, among other injuries.
Although younger children are most vulnerable to trampoline injuries, Dr. Jesse Lewis, an orthopedic surgeon at Tidelands Health Orthopedics at Murrells Inlet, has treated injuries in children of all ages.
“In my practice, the most common injuries I’ve seen are injuries to the wrist and elbow,” says Dr. Lewis, who specializes in care of the hand and upper extremities. “I’ve seen many of these in a given year.”
Most injuries occur from an uncontrolled fall “with the child landing on an extended limb or elbow,” Dr. Lewis explains. “The biggest risk is falling, either poorly on the trampoline or off the side of the trampoline itself and to the ground.”
Other injuries occur from collisions with other jumpers, an impact with the trampoline frame or springs and rebound energy in the lower extremities. The more serious permanent spine and neck injuries are often a result of miscalculated somersaults and botched flips, according to a 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics report.
Some patients require a surgical procedure known as a reduction to repair fractures with casting to immobilize the bone while healing, Dr. Lewis says. Once a cast is removed, a patient may also then need to undergo rehabilitation or physical therapy to restore full use of the affected limb, a potentially months-long process resulting from one unfortunate fall from a trampoline.
“Anyone jumping or doing anything at a height should be careful of uncontrolled falling,” Dr. Lewis adds. “If a child has a bad fall and has suffered an injury, don’t hesitate to seek medical care.
“If there’s no injury that’s readily apparent but the child has pain for longer than a day, it’s a good idea to seek an evaluation for potential fracture or other condition.”
Some argue that trampolines are great exercise for kids, but Dr. Lewis suggests “sports and many other activities besides trampolines” as safer alternatives for physical activity. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends playing catch, riding a bike and playing a team sport in lieu of jumping on a trampoline for exercise.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers these trampoline safety tips:
- Provide adult supervision at all times
- Only allow one jumper on the trampoline at a time
- Be sure the trampoline is in good condition and appropriately placed
- Install a safety net around the perimeter
- Place the trampoline-jumping surface at ground level
- Provide adequate protective padding on the trampoline
- Avoid and discourage somersaults and flips
- Regularly check equipment for safety conditions and immediately repair and/or replace any damaged parts of the trampoline
- Prohibit children younger than 6 from using the trampoline
- Remove trampoline ladders after use to prevent unsupervised access
Parents should be aware of the dangers of trampolines and not be lulled into a false sense of security just because they are so popular, health experts say.
Dr. Lewis says if parents choose to visit a trampoline park with their children, “be careful and obey any posted rules.”
Dr. Jesse Lewis
Orthopedic Surgeon, Tidelands Health Orthopedics at Murrells Inlet
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Dr. Jesse Lewis is a fellowship-trained hand and wrist orthopedic surgeon at Tidelands Health Orthopedics.Learn More
Mercer University School of Medicine
West Virginia University, Department of Orthopaedics
Florida Orthopaedic Institute
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Dr. Jesse Lewis
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Dr. Jesse Lewis is a fellowship-trained hand and wrist orthopedic surgeon at Tidelands Health Orthopedics.