Are trampolines safe for kids?

February 2, 2015 Kathleen Moen, MD

Trampolines are fun and children get a good amount of exercise when using them. However, thousands of children every year are injured on trampolines. In 2009, 98,000 people were seen in emergency rooms with injuries sustained while on trampolines. While many of these injuries were bumps and bruises, others were fractured bones that required casting and injuries requiring hospitalization and surgery. Sadly, a small percentage of people sustained life-threatening and permanently life-altering injuries, including closed head injuries and spinal cord injuries. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the America Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons have discouraged the recreational use of trampolines. What do we know about how these injuries occur and can we avoid them?

About 75% of injuries happen when more than one child at a time is on the trampoline. The smallest children are most at risk, because:

  • The lightest person on the trampoline is five times more likely to get hurt than anyone else.
  • Those less than 6 years old account for more than one third of all trampoline injuries.
These younger children are smaller, perhaps less coordinated, and more likely to be propelled or landed on by a heavier child. In my experience treating toddlers with lower leg fractures sustained just by landing on the trampoline, I expect that multiple jumpers on a trampoline likely alters the tension of the surface, potentially making it harder or less forgiving, when the smaller child lands.

Safety net enclosures can help prevent children from falling off of the trampoline, but they may provide a false sense of security. The use of safety nets has not made as much of a difference in injury rate because most injuries occur on the trampoline surface. Safety nets cannot replace the importance of adult supervision.

The most serious injuries, particularly those to the neck and spine, occur most frequently from failed flips and somersaults. These are high risk maneuvers and should not be done without proper supervision, instruction, and safety equipment such as a harness.  

If you chose to have a trampoline at home, it is important to establish clear rules for jumping, primarily, one child at a time and no flips. These limits will help prevent injuries and hopefully, make trampoline use safer.

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