We have posted on our website, under the tab of questions we sometimes get from parents: “is trampoline safe?” I wrote the response and I was questioned by several of our coaches about it. It might be a dumb move to post that I don’t think trampoline is safe on our own website when WE USE TRAMPOLINES!! but it’s a fact. I was a safety educator for USA-Gymnastics, the governing body of gymnastics in the U.S. for over 10 years. I led over 1000 coaches through a safety curriculum provided by USA-G and often threw in supplemental information that I felt coaches needed to go out and work with children and be able to answer to their parents. One of those points was to go out and make your clients/families/parents aware that there is a risk to trampoline and denying it won’t make it safer.
In the past few years places like WalMart and Toys R Us have been selling trampolines for backyard use. Now don’t get me wrong; I applaud the effort to sell something that requires physical activity but the mass availability gave the impression that buying a trampoline was a safe as buying a soccer ball. (Soccer balls that kill….tune in to the news at 10. Just kidding). Parents purchased them and installed them and were painfully unaware of the risks they pose.
Setting up a trampoline you must remember 2 things: Once kids get comfortable (bored) they will creatively develop challenging games that may result in jumping off the trampoline intentionally or unintentionally, and kids are pretty “out-of-control” naturally, when adding in a rebound device that fact is multiplied times ten. Plan on kids bouncing off the trampoline. You say “But we have a safety net.” I say “So.” A human body, intentionally or unintentionally hitting the net may slow down but may still be moving with enough force to cause an injury. While out driving I have seen backyard trampolines set up next to garages , tool sheds, or barns. That is not using good sense. I have seen trampolines set on hills. Dumb but at least you can teach children about aiming projectiles. I have also see trampolines set up on concrete or on rough ground. Again, planning for surprise exits wouldn’t include having a nice unsafe surface to land on.
Trampolines were very popular in the 60’s. In fact George Nissan from Iowa is credited for developing the modern trampoline and making it popular across the country and around the world. His company, Nissan Trampolines, was sued into oblivion because people were ignorant of their safe use and setting. Trampolines used to be in schools and university Phys. Ed. programs but they have all but disappeared because of the fear of liability. Gymnastics clubs have continued using them, in fact there are trampoline specific clubs out there and they have flourished because people know that those clubs can teach and enforce safe play and skill development. Like all things, adult supervision and wisdom is essential to a home trampoline, and here are a few other concerns you should be aware of:
- Declare to your insurance carrier that you have a backyard trampoline, an accident could lead to the unfortunate and untimely discovery that you are “uncovered”. There is an urban legend (I cannot declare true or false) about a family that had a tree fall on their house and do some damage. When the insurance adjuster came out to inspect they saw the yard tramp and declared the homeowner policy null and void. Because it wasn’t declared, the smashed in roof was not covered and the family had to pay for repairs out of pocket….and find a new insurance carrier.
- Do something to prevent use of the trampoline when you are not home. Like a swimming pool, the law defines trampolines as an “attractive nuscience”. That makes YOU liable when someone hops your fence to use your tramp. Again a story taken from a real court case, of adult neighbors thinking they can do a flip or other skills coming over when the tramp owners were not home and resulting in a broken neck. Even though alcohol was involved and the owners were on vacation, the tramp owner was still found liable because the attractive nuisance was unsecured.
- Your child will not inherently develop good skill and technique. I fact, the opposite is true. When skills are performed without technique guidance they not only can become less controlled and therefore more dangerous but they become harder to fix when you bring your kids to the gym and declare that they are “awesome” on trampoline. Not that this has happened at Gymfinity….wink wink.
- Lastly, trampolines get can old. If you’re like me and you hate to throw away that “thing” that cost you $200 you may keep that dangerous toy around “just because of whatever” But understand that cheap springs stretch out and can fracture and leave sharp ends, trampoline beds can become worn and split or will for sure at least become very slippery, and frames can rust and become unstable. Be sure to inspect your equipment frequently and always after winter; even if you take it apart and store it during the 9 months of Wisconsin winter. (At the risk of getting off on a tangent, our gym trampolines are valued at about $3000 just to help figuritively compare quality).
Jumping and rebounding on trampolines can be great fun as well as a fantastic form of exercise but…. many times children haven’t learned the safety skills that are so important in bouncing tramp. If your child will be bouncing on a trampoline in your yard we encourage you to sign them up for a class. Gymfinity will teach them how to safely stop and teach them acceptable bounces and behavior on the trampoline. I cannot or will not say that our trampolines are 100% safe, but trampolines and safety as applied to trampolines is what we do. Having your child learn from someone who specializes in trampolines is probably the best thing you can do to help them stay as safe as possible.