Jumping on a trampoline is an outdoor activity that has gained significant popularity in recent years as circular backyard trampolines have become much more commercially available. However, in a recent study published in the June 2003 issue of the Canadian Journal of Surgery*, Dr. Brian Black, a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon in Winnipeg, Manitoba, documents the high risk of orthopaedic injury in children between the ages of two and sixteen associated with trampoline jumping.
During a twenty-one month time frame, eighty children were seen at the Winnipeg Children’s Hospital for orthopaedic injuries sustained while jumping on a trampoline. Most injuries occurred during the summer months, with an equal number of boys and girls being injured. Approximately half of the injuries occurred at a neighbour’s home, and in only 10% of the cases was an adult supervising the trampoline use. Interestingly, two thirds of the children were injured while on the trampoline mat, while the others were injured when ejected from the trampoline onto a hard surface. One third of the children sustained their injuries while playing on the trampoline mat with other children.
The most common injury sustained was a fracture or fracture-dislocation, which occurred in 75% of those injured. Most fractures were in the upper extremities, although one child in the study suffered a fracture-dislocation in the neck, which resulted in paralysis.
The Canadian Pediatric Society suggests the following guidelines for the use of backyard trampolines:
- Physicians should advise children and their families of the potential dangers of trampoline use.
- Children younger than 6 years should not use the trampoline.
- Children should not use the trampoline without adult supervision.
- No more than 1 person should be on the trampoline at any time.
- No flips or other advanced manoeuvres should be attempted.
These guidelines alone may not be sufficient to prevent injury, as most children in the Winnipeg study sustained their injury from a simple fall on the mat. This suggests that many orthopaedic injuries are inevitable, even with adequate adult supervision. Dr. Black concludes that trampoline jumping is a high-risk activity, which carries with it the potential for significant orthopaedic injury.