PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Spring is here, and kids are eager to let loose their pent-up energy. Trampolines and bounce houses offer a beloved activity for play dates and birthday parties on warm weather days, but how safe are they?
At Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, pediatric orthopedic surgeon Meghan Imrie, MD, cautions that there has been a rise in trampoline and bounce house injuries over the last ten years. More than 110,000 injuries a year are reported, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. That’s due in part to the exploding popularity of trampolining since it was accepted as an Olympic sport in 2000, and to a rising recreational presence of both bounce houses and trampolines on family lawns.
“During warm weather months, we treat at least one trampoline- or bounce house-related injury every other week, on average,” says Imrie, also clinical associate professor at the Stanford School of Medicine. “These vary from sprains to fractures to more serious injuries requiring surgery, and typically result from kids colliding with someone else or landing in a bad position.”
A competitive gymnast herself for more than 15 years, Imrie knows firsthand the appeal and joy bouncing offers. “I love the trampoline! And I encourage parents to let their kids participate in bouncing fun, but I want to arm them with knowledge about what they can do to minimize injury risk,” she affirms.
Imrie offers five key tips for families who love to jump:
1) Trampoline jumpers should be at least 6 years old. This is important because many children younger than 6 do not have the balance to correct themselves and avoid coming down in an awkward position, Imrie noted. There is no recommended age cut-off for bounce house jumpers, but try to match jumpers of similar age, weight and height.
2) Allow only one person on the trampoline at a time. More than half of injuries occur when there are multiple bouncers, especially when they are of different sizes. The person weighing less is significantly more likely to be injured than the heavier person. Bounce house jumpers should be limited to small groups of comparable size.
3) Make sure that jumpers are supervised by an adult at all times—ideally a parent or someone that the parent trusts.
4) Follow equipment safety instructions. These can vary by manufacturer. For trampolines, they typically include removing any ladders, covering springs and hinges, and putting up a net enclosure. For bounce houses, precautions include securely anchoring the house and having mats around the entrance and anywhere else a child could fall.
5) Don’t attempt tricks. Somersaults, flips and other stunts bring a higher likelihood of landing incorrectly, and can lead to more serious head and neck injuries. “Leave these for the tumblers,” Imrie suggests.
Imrie also cautions grown-ups to resist the temptation to jump with their kids. “If you do go on, don’t bounce!” she advises. “The heavier parent can increase the risk of the lighter child coming down awkwardly or, in the case of a trampoline, flying off altogether.”
Imrie hopes more parents will help their children follow these tips and, in doing so, avoid a trip to the emergency room this season.
About Stanford Children’s Health and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford
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Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford is the heart of Stanford Children’s Health, and is one of the nation’s top hospitals for the care of children and expectant mothers. For a decade, we have received the highest specialty rankings of any Northern California children’s hospital, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2014-15 Best Children’s Hospitals survey, and are the only hospital in Northern California to receive the national 2013 Leapfrog Group Top Children’s Hospital award for quality and patient care safety. Discover more at stanfordchildrens.org.