I have a love/hate relationship with trampolines. I can still remember the first time I got hurt on one. Sixth grade, Amy K’s backyard. My knees buckled and slammed into my braces-filled mouth, splitting my bottom lip. It wasn’t a catastrophic injury, but one that produced enough blood to leave a bad taste in my mouth that day and, well, forever.
Flash forward 15 years. My in-laws decided to buy a “safe” trampoline for the grandkids before my children were even born. At the time, I was openly against it.
“They’re so dangerous,” I said.
“But, it’s a lot safer than the trampolines of your day,” they argued.
And it looked to be — no springs, full net sides. But I had a nagging feeling. The injury I suffered had nothing to do with rusty springs and plummeting four feet off a tramp, it was the jumping itself.
Flash forward six years and, of course, bouncing on the trampoline is my kids’ favorite thing to do at their nana’s house. That trampoline that I loathed has provided hours upon hours of entertainment for all the grandkids, ages 3 to 13. Because of that, I reluctantly climbed off my high horse and buckled, so to speak.
I decided to stop resisting and let my kids bounce. I compartmentalized my fears and made myself believe nothing could go wrong with this built-in safety net. A few years of watching them happily bounce at nana’s and I fully boarded the trampoline train. I even took my toddlers to a trampoline park. Many times. We came, we climbed, we bounced, we giggled.
Then I read a Facebook post that sobered my cautiously growing trampoline love. One mom, Kait Ellen, bravely shared her family’s story on Facebook — and in doing so made all my childhood trampoline fears come rushing back.
She originally wrote in her (since deleted) Facebook post:
“As hard as it is to relive the past 12 days, we feel compelled to make other parents aware of the danger associated with indoor trampoline parks. Colton fell and broke his femur, the strongest bone in his body, while innocently jumping alongside his dad and I.”
Ellen then shared information she learned from her child’s pediatric orthopedic surgeon.
“Come to find out, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons “children under the age of 6 should never use a trampoline. This is due to the fact that their fragile bones are not meant to withstand the repetitive pressure from jumping.”
The adorable 3-year-old Colton is adjusting to life in a hip spica cast for the next six weeks.
“Our lives have been turned upside down since Colton’s accident and every day is a struggle,” Kait Ellen wrote on Facebook.
Her post really hit home for me when she noted the marketing efforts of trampoline parks to promote toddler time. “That’s me! I take my kids to trampoline toddler time!” I thought.
“We share this with you today to spread awareness that these facilities are specifically advertising for Toddler Time, when in fact toddlers should be no where near trampolines.”
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, trampoline-park injuries like Colton’s have surged in recent years. The study estimates that the number of emergency room visits from injuries occurring at indoor trampoline parks rose dramatically from less than 600 in 2010 to 6,932 in 2014.
One emergency medicine physician at Texas Children’s Hospital echoed the findings when she spoke with NPR about what she has seen in her ER: “I don’t think parents realize how significant the injuries can be or how frequently they occur,” Dr. Katherine Leamin-Van Zandt said.
But it’s not just the big flashy trampoline parks that pose a risk to our tots. The backyard variety is equally to blame for injuries. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages the use of home trampolines.
That same study found the average number of U.S. emergency room visits for trampoline injuries was close to 92,000 a year. And the vast majority of these accidents happened at home.
So, what to do? Should we avoid all the trampolines?
That’s a choice parents have to make for their own families. But, if you do let your kids jump on trampolines, you should watch them closely. The AAP says trampolines should only be used under proper supervision.
The AAP also recommends adequate protective padding and only one jumper at a time. (So I guess that nine-kid pile up at nana’s is a bad idea.) The group also cautions that kids should avoid flips and somersaults.
The lead author, Dr. Gary Smith of the AAP, told Fox News that aerobic activities, like jumping on a trampoline, have many physical and mental health benefits that are important for a child’s development. But, he cautioned, only when done under appropriate supervision and in an appropriate environment. “Which is not in a trampoline park or in the backyard,” he clarified.
“If a child would like to use a trampoline, the child should do so under the supervision of a trained instructor, who can safely progress the child through maneuvers as the child gains skills,” Smith said.
As more parents speak up about their own personal experiences, maybe Smith’s message will resonate. Colton’s parents certainly did their part to spread the recommendations by sharing their heartbreaking story.
“We hope by sharing his story it will prevent a child and their family from experiencing the trauma and heartbreak associated with trampoline injuries in young children.”
The original post was shared nearly 200,000 times in just a few days, so one can only hope that means more parents are listening and Colton’s story is indeed making an impact. I know it certainly means my own toddler time trampoline days are over.