Should Utah kids stay off home trampolines?
Emergency room doctor Charles Pruitt estimates that during each of his shifts in the summer, he treats one or two children who have been hurt while jumping on a trampoline.
The injuries range from fractures below the knee from what doctors at Primary Children's Medical Center call the "double bounce" when the child comes down as the trampoline recoils to head injuries from jumpers colliding.
It's enough for Pruitt to agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation this week that home trampoline use be avoided.
"I don't think trampolines have any place in backyards in unsupervised settings. I agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics; they're just too dangerous," said Pruitt, child advocacy chairman of the Utah chapter of the AAP.
The AAP's policy statement "Trampoline Safety in Childhood and Adolescence" says about 98,000 injuries occurred nationwide in 2009, resulting in 3,100 hospitalizations. It says adding netting and padding doesn't appear to reduce the risk of injuries.
It recommends that pediatricians advise patients and their parents against recreational trampoline use.
However, using trampolines in a structured training program, with coaching and supervision, may be OK, the policy says. It notes that such settings are vastly different than a backyard trampoline: The trampolines are larger, there is more padding and the athletes are protected with a bungee or harness.
Trampoline has been an Olympic sport since 2000, and they are used to train gymnasts, divers, freestyle skiers and figure skaters. When professionals require the use of such safety measures, including spotters, Pruitt said, "it seems surprising we would send the child out to the backyard to jump unsupervised."
The AAP policy notes that children ages 5 or younger are at greater risk for significant injury. Nearly half the injuries among that age group were broken bones or dislocations. And up to half the injuries occur while adults are supervising.
Injuries most often occur when several children are jumping at once. The most commonly harmed body part is the ankle, but nearly 1 in 5 trampoline-related injuries is to the head or neck, either from falling off the device or landing wrong during somersaults or flips.
"The appeal of a trampoline is also part of the problem," Pruitt said. "They make you bounce higher in the air than you could normally jump."
While some may extol the virtues of trampolines for getting kids active, Pruitt said, there's plenty of other ways to get exercise.
The academy's warnings resonated with two Utah trampoline dealers.
Richard Cowley, the owner of Trampoline World Sales & Repair in Sandy, said he thinks many of the risks associated with allowing children to jump on trampolines can be addressed through good parental supervision.
"It is all about responsibility," he said. "You don't want to let your kids jump unsupervised, nor do you want to let more than one jump at a time."
Cowley said he believes that when proper safety procedures are followed on trampolines, the health benefits of continuous use for all ages far outweigh the risk of injury.
He doesn't anticipate much impact on his sales, he said, because many of his customers are repeat business.
Dickson Pitcher of Pitcher's Sports, which has stores in Ogden and Sandy, agreed that trampolines can be hazardous if used improperly. He welcomes the academy's "good cautious" approach to their use.
Pitcher noted that there have been similar warnings issued in regard to skiing, snowboarding, sledding and Rollerblading.
"With any of those kinds of activities, if people follow the rules and the correct procedures, they'll be a lot safer," he said. "Every new trampoline sold comes with a list of things to do and things not to do. You wouldn't try to put five kids on a swing all at once, so why would you put that many kids on a trampoline together?"
Alan Christensen, of Murray, said he grew up jumping on his family's trampoline with his three brothers. They would often see how high they could bounce one another, and those games ended in scrapes and bruises more than once.
"I'd say every so often somebody would fall off the side," he said.
Now that Christensen is married with a 1-year-old daughter of his own, he's more concerned about the risks. If his daughter ever wants a trampoline of her own, he'll probably "lean on the side of caution."
"I'd be a little bit more hesitant about buying one," Christensen said. "Your perception changes once you become a parent."
Tribune reporter Kimball Bennion contributed to this report.
Safety tips: If your kids keep jumping
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers this advice to parents who let their children jump on home trampolines:
Restrict use to a single jumper.
Ensure protective padding is in good condition and properly placed.
Set trampoline at ground level and clear of hazards.
Don't allow somersaults or flips.
Require supervision by an adult familiar with the recommendations.
Verify that homeowner insurance policies cover trampoline claims.