When we were on Cape Cod last month with my daughter Kate and her family as well as with her BFF Karen and her clan, we had a great day at Pirate’s Cove mini-golf. Rowan, almost 3 and Mary, almost 4 were fascinated by the pirate statues and troubled by why they had peg legs and hooks for hands. Tough to explain when Rowan asked “Doc, can’t you fix them?”
I was happy that the kids were ready for naps after the outing so I didn’t have to be the guy who “sucks the fun out of everything …” as our little nephew Matt once said of his mom, by refusing to let the kids go to the nearby trampoline park.
Trampoline parks are popping up around the country, and while they look like tons of fun, recent reports highlight the prevalence of accidents at these high-flying clubs — leading to as many as 300,000 hospital visits per year and drawing concern from parents.
It’s great to see families taking advantage of fun, physical activities. But it’s also important to understand the dangers and discuss safety measures before committing to a day at the trampoline park.
Here are a few things you should know before taking the leap.
No jumping under 6
Your kids’ bones are still developing throughout their childhood. Kids may not have the coordination and body control to safely jump on a trampoline and therefore are at risk for a sprain, fracture or concussion. That’s one reason the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends that no child under 6 years old use a trampoline. The American Academy of Pediatrics takes an even stronger stance, discouraging the use of trampolines for all children.
Any person’s bones can be negatively affected by the impact and pressure of a trampoline and it’s important to be especially mindful of potential risks for children with developing bone structure and coordination.
The problem with the safety nets
Although safety nets at the trampoline parks are an important measure to preventing major falls, studies have shown that the majority of injuries take place not by falling off of the trampoline but on the surface of the trampoline. Attempting somersaults and getting too high off the ground are major culprits.
Think of it like a pool with a deep end. Sure, there’s a rope marking off the area where your child shouldn’t go, but there are plenty of reasons to keep a close eye on them in the shallow end as well.
In fact, one of the most common injuries from the trampoline has earned the nickname “trampoline ankle”— a broken bone as a result of a rolled ankle that can require surgery to repair. Ankle sprains are also extremely common.
One at a time
Remember trying those double jumps that launched one kid up in the air? More than 75 percent of trampoline injuries occur when more than one person is on board, whether it be from falls, collision or an improper landing, according to research.
In the case of multiple participants, the elasticity of the surface is reduced, and impact is intensified, putting more strain on joints and decreasing jumper control. There should never be more than one person on the trampoline at a time. So your impulse to take your young child on the trampoline with you is strongly discouraged.
Regulation is lax
Though there is an International Association of Trampoline Parks that lobbies for “responsible legislation that creates standards and regulations that protect both park owners and patrons alike,” there is currently no government oversight for the parks.
This gives park owners freedom of design and execution; however, there are a few safety criteria everyone should look for.
The following standards are required for members of the International Association of Trampoline Parks, and are a baseline of what you should look at a trampoline park:
* One trained court monitor per 32 jumpers
* Rules signage visibly displayed
* Netting placed to prevent falls
* Tight-knit netting that can’t be grabbed or held
* Protective covers over springs
* A minimum of 60 inches of padding at court entrances and exits
Please think twice before letting kids use this equipment. Mini-golf might be a better idea; just get your story about the pirates’ limbs down pat before the toddlers freak out.
Dr. Alfred Casale, a cardiothoracic surgeon, is Associate Chief Medical Officer for Geisinger Health and Chair of the Geisinger Cardiac Institute. Readers may write to him via [email protected]