While trampolines remain a popular recreational activity for many children and teenagers, pediatricians have long warned that they pose serious dangers of debilitating spinal fractures or traumatic brain injuries. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) renewed its warnings in a paper published this month in its journal, Pediatrics, reviewing the types of accidents that can occur with trampolines and the injuries that are likely to result.
The trampoline, in its modern form, originated as a “tumbling device” intended for athletic training. A 1945 patent obtained by George Nissen, a competitive gymnast, described a device for use in gymnastic and acrobatic training. Later modifications to the design allowed manufacturers to produce units that could be shipped and assembled individually, and the recreational trampoline was born. While organizations like the AAP, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) provide safety recommendations for the proper maintenance and use of trampolines, trampoline-related injuries have persisted. Recent safety modifications to trampoline designs, such as protective netting and padding, have not significantly reduced injury rates, according to the AAP. The AAOS noted that injury rates increased parallel to the growth in popularity of trampolines. The AAP has observed, however, that trampoline purchases peaked in 2004, and injury rates have declined since then.
The AAP estimates that an average of 100,000 trampoline-related injuries occur every year. About 3,000 of those injuries result in hospitalization or fatalities. Injuries can result from collisions between multiple users, falls from the trampoline to the ground or floor, and collision with the trampoline frame or springs. While injuries to the upper and lower extremities, particularly fractured or sprained ankles, are the most common type of trampoline-related injury, head and neck injuries are the most dangerous and damaging risk. Impact to the head or neck can cause traumatic brain injury such as concussion, or damage to the cervical spine. In rare cases, trampoline-related neck injuries can cause a vertebral artery dissection, which can cause stroke or other long-term impairment. The AAP estimates that about 0.5% of all trampoline injuries, which could be as many as five hundred each year, result in permanent neurological damage.