Bouncing Their Way into the ER

With the sky-high rise in kids' trampoline injuries, parents need to 'keep it down'

As the summer enters its final stretch, moms and dads can’t overlook “safety first” for their kids. Especially important is taking care on the trampoline. The jumping looks so joyous and carefree — but it can lead to injuries both large and small.

The number of trampoline injuries has jumped now to a record high, according to research published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

“There is even an occasional death from head or neck injury, if the injury is high enough on the neck,” said one emergency room doctor.

When a trampoline accident occurs, injuries can be very serious. And with the explosive growth of trampoline “parks” — trampolines connected to one another and surrounded by padded walls — emergency rooms are busy tending to both children and adults who have bounced themselves into serious injury.

“We have a few parks here in our community,” Dr. Ryan Stanton, an emergency room physician at Baptist Health in Lexington, Kentucky, told LifeZette. “It used to be mainly children we were seeing, but due to these parks we see all ages — parents are getting injured as well.”

The International Association of Trampoline Parks (IATP) told NPR there were an estimated 50 million visits in the past year to U.S. parks — 50 million chances for injury.

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Using data from a governmental injury tracking system, researchers from Connecticut Children’s Medical Center — which produced the new study — estimated that the number of ER visits from injuries sustained at an indoor park rose from fewer than 600 in 2010 to a whopping 6,932 in 2014.

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“The most common trampoline injuries are broken bones and sprains, but the more concerning are the neck injuries,” said Stanton. “We do see sometimes pretty significant injury associated with the neck, and those are the ones we worry about. These can include spinal cord injury, a broken neck — there is even an occasional death from head or neck injury, if the injury is high enough on the neck.”

Almost 9 percent of park injuries required hospital admission, compared with 5.2 percent of injuries from home trampolines, according to the new research. Trampoline park injuries made up 11 percent of total 2014 ER visits for trampoline injuries.

“Our youngest son had to visit the ER twice for trampoline injuries on friends’ trampolines — once for a severely sprained wrist, and once, very concerning, for a neck injury,” one Boston father of three said. “After that, he didn’t want to jump anymore. He had hyper-extended the muscles in the front of his neck, and couldn’t bring his chin to his chest without crying in pain. We rushed him to the ER, and he spent the next few days with ice on his neck, and lots of Motrin.”

“Parents may be lulled into complacency, thinking that supervision by park employees will keep their kids safe.”

Many American neighborhoods are dotted with backyard trampolines, and the peals of laughter from kids flying through the air belies an activity chock-full of hazards. So many accidents have stemmed from the bouncy activity that the American Academy of Pediatrics “strongly” discourages their use.

While sprains and fractures are the most common injuries with both backyard trampolines and at dedicated parks, those at parks are more likely to involve a dislocation. Indoor parks also result in more lower-extremity injuries and fewer upper-extremity and head injuries than home trampolines, reported NPR.

Katherine Leaming-Van Zant, an emergency medicine physician at Texas Children’s Hospital, has seen much the same in her ER. “I don’t think parents realize how significant the injuries can be or how frequently they occur,” she told NPR, adding, “Parents may be lulled into complacency, thinking that supervision by park employees will keep their kids safe.”

One problem at trampoline parks is the sheer number of people bouncing around. “When they start to get busy and there are a lot of kids staying around the same area, beware,” said Stanton, who brings his young boys to a nearby park.

“We’ve actually left the park when older kids are jumping and playing around the same area — it’s risky enough when you’re on a trampoline by yourself, but [the presence of] other people cranks up the potential for something bad happening.”

The IATP, which represents the trampoline park industry, said in a statement it welcomes studies like this one that “provide a deeper understanding of safety issues.” But it also asserted that with industry growth from 25 parks in 2010 to more than 350 in 2014, the increase in the number of injuries isn’t shocking.

“We believe that the positives of youth recreational sports far outweigh the negatives, and we are actively engaged at programs aimed at promoting the safety and well-being of jumpers who visit our member parks,” the group said in its statement.

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“I’m of the mindset that everything you do has some risk to it, but you have to understand those risks as much as you can, and limit them as much as you can,” advised Stanton. “Limit what you do to your level of ability. Do a somersault into the foam pit — not on the trampoline itself, for example.”

If your kids continue to bounce on a backyard trampoline, check the equipment frequently. “Make sure all equipment is intact and working properly with your trampolines — the netting and the pads,” said Stanton.

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