A Neurologist Advises Parents On Trampoline Risks

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I recently asked Dr. Robert Pearlman, a neurologist, to address two topics of concern to many parents.  In A Neurologist’s Perspective On Head Injury In Child Athletes, he discusses head injuries related to school sports.  Today, he addresses risks specific to trampoline use. Whether we as parents allow our children to jump on a trampoline or not, it is wise to know and consider the risks involved.

Dr. Robert Pearlman

Most of us have a friend or neighbor who has a trampoline. During the hot summer months, jumping on such a device would not only entice any child, it might appeal to parents who would see it as a source of exercise and pleasure for their children. However, trampolines have hidden features that make their use very dangerous.

The inability to precisely control the trajectory of one’s bounce can cause the child to be propelled off of the trampoline mat and onto the edge of the trampoline or the ground. This relatively uncontrolled bouncing can also lead to injury if a child is somersaulting. In some cases, the child’s head or neck, rather than his or her feet, could impact the trampoline, and injury could result.

A safety alert by the Consumer Product Safety Commission indicates that many injuries occur each year from trampoline use. These include but are not limited to sprains, fractures, bruises and contusions.

Unfortunately, a smaller but not insignificant number of head and neck injuries can occur. These may occur when landing on the ground unexpectedly, impacting the trampoline in an uncontrollable fashion, or when several children are bouncing up and down on the trampoline at the same time. In many circumstances, the child and parent may be unaware of the danger.

Most of us on occasion have jumped off of the high dive at the local swim club. If we enter the water without much of a splash, we should emerge unscathed from the impact. Every now and then, someone will belly flop off of the high dive. The impact is usually loud and painful, but fortunately, the water is usually forgiving at such a height. I have seen people afterward with swollen red flanks where they have inadvertently hit the water. Unlike a swimming pool, however, the ground is very unforgiving. At a height of ten feet, your velocity at impact will be close to twenty miles per hour. Just imagine the kind of force that can be exerted on a limb, a neck, or a head from this type of collision.

Also, one needs to consider what could happen if one is unfortunate enough to hit a nearby structure such as a swing set, grill, chair or piece of lawn equipment. While a grassy lawn can have some “give” to cushion an impact, macadam or concrete will not, thus adding additional trauma to an already severe injury.

I have personally witnessed the trauma (neck injury in one case and severe fracture in another) that can accompany trampoline use. Playing on them can be alluring to a child, but as parents we have to regulate and control the activities of our children. We should know whether our neighbors have such “toys” in their yards and should make it known that our children are forbidden in their use. As a father of five, I have no problem restricting my kids from bouncing on them. There are too many safer activities for kids to do.

A good article for those wanting more information on trampoline safety in children and adolescents can be found at the link below.

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/09/19/peds.2012-2082.full.pdf