Stephanie Mostiler's husband, Cliff, has many fond memories of jumping on the trampoline at his house when he was a child. But when he wanted to buy one for their Buford yard, Mostiler said she did extensive research to make sure their sons, Jack and Joshua, would be safe.
"We want them to have fun, but getting too dangerous is not worth the risk," she said. "Safety was first."
Keeping that in mind, here are five things to remember before buying your child a trampoline.
Know the risks
According to data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, trampolines caused more than 100,000 injuries in 2014, the last year for which data was available.
In fact, the backyard play equipment is so rife with risks that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents say no to buying a trampoline at all.
Dr. Scott Batchelor, who works in the emergency room at Scottish Rite Children's Hospital in Atlanta, said that recommendation may be unrealistic, but he hasn't bought a trampoline for his own kids for a reason.
"We get some fractures daily," he said, noting that some are from other outdoor activities like skateboarding, but trampoline injuries land people in the ER often. "They rarely require surgery. They require casting, which can make your summer more difficult."
Other than scrapes and bruises, fractures to the leg or arm are the most common injury from a trampoline. However, children have the potential to sustain head injuries or even spinal cord damage from the riskier jumps and flips.
"I have seen some skull fractures," Batchelor said, adding that he is fortunate that he has never had to treat a patient with a spinal cord injury. "Even the fractures can be bad. It looks terrible, and the parents are just as pale and shocked as the patients."
Research before you buy
Trampolines have been around for 70 years, but the biggest changes to the design occurred in the 2000s. Since then, there has been a reduction in injuries.
Here are some key features to look for, according to this buying guide:
- safety pads that cover the springs
- springs that are designed to avoid entrapment or other injuries
- a net that can keep kids from falling to the ground
- a secure frame
Consider the placement
Mostiler said her husband remembers a time when he would jump off of the roof onto his trampoline, so finding a safe place to entertain her boys — away from the temptations of jumping off of things — was key.
Batchelor also said parents should be sure that obstructions like tree limbs aren't above the trampoline, where kids could hit their heads. Parents should also be sure there are no concrete or hard surfaces in the area where kids could land if they fall off.
Check your insurance
Because of the frequency of injuries, some homeowner's insurance policies exclude the use of trampolines. Others will allow coverage with certain safety precautions in place. So check your policy, and don't be surprised if your premiums go up because of your trampoline.
Set the rules
Batchelor said the likelihood of injury could be lessened by following certain rules, which are backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines and statistics.
- Adult supervision is a must.
- Kids ages 5 and younger shouldn't jump (they are the most likely to get hurt).
- One person at a time (75 percent of injuries happen when more than one person is jumping).
- No jumping onto the trampoline from another surface or off of the trampoline onto another surface.
- Avoid flips and somersaults.
Mostiler said she has similar rules in her backyard.
"We have been blessed to be free of any major injuries on our trampoline," she said, adding that she has had to expand the list to include things like which toys are appropriate and that you can't go under the mat when someone is jumping. "We may have a moment of fussing where someone got hit in the nose with an inflatable ball, but nothing that warrants a doctor's visit or ER trip or anything more than a pause from playing."