by Nick Gromicko, CMI®
While health-promoting and fun, trampolines can also be dangerous when they're misused or if they're poorly designed.
Facts and Figures
- The first modern trampoline was constructed in 1936 by University of Iowa gymnasts George Nissen and Larry Griswold. Trampoline-like devices have been in use for centuries, however, such as walrus skins used by the Inuit to toss each other into the air.
- According to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), an average of 246,875 trampoline injuries requiring medical treatment occur annually in the U.S. Of this total, the majority -- 186,405 -- occur among children ages 14 and younger. The most common injuries resulting in hospitalization include fractures to the upper and lower extremities. Catastrophic spine injuries are rare, but head and neck injuries constitute a large portion of the more serious reported injuries.
- Most reported injuries and deaths are caused by children colliding with each other, landing improperly while jumping or doing stunts, falling off the trampoline, or falling on the trampoline springs or frame.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that home trampolines not be used at all. Parents may consider other forms of activity for their children to enjoy, or visit a commercial trampoline park, whose standards for construction must follow strict safety guidelines.
Trampoline users should practice the following safety tips in order to avoid injury:
- Allow only one person on the trampoline at a time.
- Use a trampoline that is located in a well-lit area.
- Children should never be allowed to jump onto the trampoline from high objects, such as trees or roofs.
- Always supervise children who use the trampoline, and never allow a child under the age of 6 to use a full-size trampoline.
- Leave the gymnastics to the professionals. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission cautions against performing somersaults on trampolines because landing on the head or neck can cause paralysis. The user should never attempt maneuvers beyond their capability or training.
In addition to safe behavior, trampolines can be arranged to limit the chance of injury using these guidelines:
- Install a surrounding net. These nets have been shown to reduce the number of injuries from falls off the trampoline, although they are no substitute for supervision, and they do not protect against injuries sustained on the trampoline, according to the Foundation for Spinal Cord Injury Prevention.
- Safety pads should cover all portions of the steel frame, hooks and springs.
- Never place the trampoline on concrete or asphalt. It’s wise to apply wood chips or some other soft surface to the surroundings.
- Never install a trampoline near structures, power lines, clotheslines, trees, or anything else that may contact a bouncing child.
- The condition of the trampoline should be regularly inspected for tears, rust, and detachments.
- Safety harnesses and spotting belts, when appropriately used, may offer additional protection for athletes practicing more challenging skills on the trampoline.
- Trampolines that are set over pits so that the mat is at ground level may be safer because the user will not fall as far if they miss the pad.
- Do not attach a ladder to the trampoline because it can provide unsupervised access for small children.
Trampolines and Homeowners Insurance
Trampolines are considered by insurance companies to be an "attractive nuisance" -- something that invites trespassers – and, as such, insurers don't automatically provide coverage for them in their homeowners policies. No matter what signs are posted or gates erected, there is always a possibility that a neighborhood child will trespass, get injured on the trampoline, and sue you in court.
Mary Kaderbek of Allstate® Insurance reminds homeowners that "owning a trampoline can affect your homeowners insurance," so they should check their policies or give their agents a call before purchasing a trampoline.
Most insurers handle trampolines in one of three ways:
- No Exclusions: This means that there are no restrictions on owning or using a trampoline on the covered property. While it may be the most desirable coverage, it may not be a standard offering by your insurer;
- Coverage with Safety Precautions: This type of coverage is for trampolines that have safety features installed, such as padded coverings for springs, a netting enclosure, a locking yard gate, etc.; and
- Trampoline Exclusion: The most restrictive clause, this means that trampolines are excluded from your homeowners coverage, so any damage or injury caused by anyone (invited or not) who uses a trampoline on the insured property is not covered. Furthermore, if a homeowner purchases a trampoline after purchasing the policy, the policy may not be renewed.
In summary, trampolines can cause bodily harm -- and financial hardship -- if not used responsibly. And, as with any major purchase for the home, homeowners should check with their insurance carriers to find out what kind of liability they may face by setting up a trampoline in their yard.