(USA TODAY) - Bouncing up and down on a home trampoline may look like fun, but the popular piece of backyard equipment is "intrinsically dangerous" and should be strongly discouraged, says the co-author of an updated pediatricians' policy statement.
Even safety features such as netting enclosures and padding do not significantly decrease the risk of injury, says Portland, Maine sports medicine pediatrician Michele LaBotz, co-author of the American Academy of Pediatrics' statement on trampoline safety. The policy is published today in the journal Pediatrics.
Although the new statement says there is insufficient data regarding safety at the growing number of trampoline parks, it adds that the equipment does have an acceptable role when used as part of a structured athletic training program with "appropriate coaching, supervision and safety measures in place."
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, The Canadian Pediatric Society, and the Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine have all issued similar statements discouraging recreational and playground use of trampolines, citing safety concerns.
Although the report notes that trampoline sales -- and injuries -- peaked several years ago and have been decreasing since then, the trend "is not down in terms of severity or the pattern of injuries," LaBotz says.
The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System estimates that 98,000 trampoline-related injuries occurred in 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available, resulting in 3,100 hospitalizations.That's down from 3,300 hospitalizations and 112,000 injuries in 2004.
About 75% of trampoline injuries occur when multiple people are jumping, and kids 5 and under are usually at greater risk for significant injury, the group says. Fractures and dislocations make up 48% of injuries. Common injuries in all age groups include sprains, strains and contusions.
In March, New York Yankees relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain suffered a major ankle injury while jumping on a trampoline with his 5-year-old son at a trampoline park.
Falls from a trampoline accounted for 27% to 39% of all injuries, and can potentially be catastrophic, resulting in head and neck injuries, says LaBotz. Several reports put head and neck injuries at 10% to 17% of all trampoline-related injuries, the policy statement says. It notes that many injuries have occurred even with adult supervision.
"A lot of people just don't recognize the intrinsic risks or even the liability associated with having a recreational trampoline," LaBotz says, adding that many home insurance policies have trampoline exclusions or mandate that they are within enclosed areas with restricted access.
Trampoline makers say the pediatricians' statement is based on insufficient current data and fails to acknowledge the valuable health benefits associated with trampoline use.
"The dramatic drop in the number of injuries is the result of safety enclosures," says Mark Publicover, CEO of San Jose, Calif.-based JumpSport. He created the first trampoline safety net enclosure. "It's had the same effect for trampolines that bicycle helmets have had for bike safety," he says. Today about 85% of the approximately 900,000 consumer trampolines sold are purchased with a safety net, Publicover adds.
Jumping on a trampoline is a great way to get a vigorous workout, the very thing American children need today, says Arch Adams, president of Fun Spot Trampolines, in Hartwell, Ga. "It's one of the few forms of exercise kids want to do."
What's most important, he says, is that users follow industry guidelines and heed warnings included with all consumer trampolines: one jumper at a time; no somersaults, and adult supervision is essential.