SUNDAY, May 15, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Emergency room visits due to trampoline injuries have almost doubled since the early 1990s, new research shows.
An estimated 75,000 children are injured each year, and 91 percent of those injuries occur on backyard trampolines, said one of the study's authors, Dr. James Linakis, a pediatric emergency physician at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, R.I.
"This problem has not gone away," said Linakis, who added, "The home environment and even the school environment are not the place for trampolines. While not a popular idea, trampolines are really only appropriate in very select, heavily supervised environments," such as a gymnastics school.
The findings were presented Sunday at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), citing an increase in trampoline-related injuries, issued a policy recommending that trampolines not be used at home or for physical education classes at school.
Linakis said that, after the policy came out, he expected to see a drop in the number of trampoline injuries. Instead, he said, "We were still seeing a large number of trampoline injuries in the ER."
And, that discrepancy is what triggered this study. Linakis and his colleagues reviewed national data on trampoline injuries collected by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for 2001 and 2002, and compared it to data collected for a study that looked at trampoline injuries from 1990 through 1995.
During the early 1990s, about 42,000 children hurt themselves badly enough each year to require an emergency room visit. But, by 2001-2002, that number had jumped to almost 75,000 annually.
At the same time, the number of injuries requiring hospital admission also jumped dramatically, from 1,400 each year in the early 1990s to 2,218 annually by 2001-2002.
Linakis said he's not sure why the injury rate is going up so dramatically, but speculated, "Either we're not getting the message out or we are getting the message out and people aren't paying attention."
The average age of the children injured was 9, and 53 percent were male. The most common injuries were bruises, cuts, fractures and dislocations, he said.
Linakis said the researchers weren't able to collect information on exactly how the injuries occurred. But allowing more than one child on a trampoline at a time is a significant source of injury, he said.
Dr. Karen Sheehan, medical director for Injury Prevention and Research at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said, "We haven't done all we can at getting out the message" about the dangers of trampolines.
"Supervision is key to avoiding injuries," said Sheehan. "While the AAP strongly recommends getting trampolines out of the home, we probably can't get rid of them all, but we can make them safer."
She said if you have a trampoline at home, make sure you're always right there supervising children when they're on the trampoline. Another way to avoid injuries is to make sure that only one child jumps at a time.
Nets that enclose the trampoline may help, but both Sheehan and Linakis said they simply haven't been studied to see if they make trampolines safer. Sheehan pointed out that many injuries, such as broken bones, occur even when children don't fall off the trampoline, and having a net won't help avoid those injuries.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which reports that six children have died using trampolines since 1990, also recommends:
- No children under 6 use a trampoline.
- Don't have ladder access to your trampoline because small children can then climb up unsupervised.
- Don't let older children attempt somersaults -- doing so increases the risk of a serious head or neck injury.
- Make sure the trampoline is nowhere near tree branches or playground equipment.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers more information on trampoline safety.