Spinal Fractures, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Other Risks Posed by Trampolines, According to Pediatricians

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.

Trampoline injuries are frequently the subject of litigation. The Court of Appeals of Indiana ordered an insurance company to defend and indemnify a trampoline owner in a lawsuit in National Mutual Ins. Co. v. Curtis, 867 N.E.2d 631 (Ind. App. 2007). The plaintiff suffered a compound leg fracture in a trampoline accident in the defendants’ backyard. The insurance company initially denied coverage under a policy exclusion for injuries related to trampoline use. The court ruled that the policy’s personal injury provisions required coverage of the lawsuit, finding that the policy did not clearly and conspicuously state the exception. The insurance company later prevailed based on several technicalities in 2011, including a failure by the defendants to file a claim within the statute of limitations.

The personal injury attorneys at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse represent the interests of Indiana accident victims and their families, helping them to obtain compensation for their damages. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our lawyers, contact us today online or at (888) 532-7766.

Web Resources:

Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness; Trampoline Safety in Childhood and Adolescence (PDF file); Pediatrics; originally published online September 24, 2012; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-2082
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission; Trampoline Safety (PDF file); Publication 085, R042012
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