Jump with joy

How to keep kids safe if you own a trampoline

Looking back, it might not have been the safest idea.

Like a lot of kids, I had a trampoline growing up. The only difference was there was a swing, attached to a tree, hanging over my childhood trampoline. The neighborhood kids and I would get going really high in the swing, then jump onto the trampoline - often resulting in a launch-style maneuver. Luckily, my parents were smart enough to take down the swing before there were any serious injuries.

It would seem my pals and I had broken one of the fundamental rules of trampoline safety 101: No dismounts.

"Never dismount from the trampoline," said Arch Adams, owner of Fin Spot Trampolines in Hartwell. "Don't jump into a pool, onto the ground - anywhere - directly from the trampoline. You need to actually climb off."

Dismounts and falls off the trampoline are two of the most common injury inducers. Colliding with other jumpers, falling into the springs and attempting stunts also top the list of reasons for accidents, according to a 2000 report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Injuries related to trampolines are a common occurrence in hospital emergency rooms. In 2004, there were more than 93,000 emergency room-treated injuries associated with trampolines, according to the commission. About 90 percent of these injuries involved children under the age of 15.

"We see it all the time in the emergency room, kids who are hurt from a trampoline. A lot of these kids were trying to do stunts, and they fall and hit the spring or the ground. Or they are jumping with too many kids on and hit one another and fall off," said Margie Leathers, a registered nurse at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and manager of the hospital's injury prevention program. "These are such preventable injuries."

That said, trampolines don't need to be a danger field. There are actions parents can take to safeguard against trampoline hazards.

"Trampolines are a great workout. They are a ton of fun and don't need to be dangerous," Adams said.

Reading the owner's manual and following the guidelines outlined on trampoline mats are vital steps for staying safe.

The No. 1 rule for safe jumping, Adams said, is one kid at a time.

"That is the most overlooked safety tip, but it is the most important," he said.

The addition of safety nets is a good way to keep jumpers from bouncing off the trampoline and helps in avoiding fall-related injuries, Leathers said.

"If you are going to have a trampoline, nets will help keep kids from falling off," she said. "Make sure the springs, the rail, anything hard is covered. Adult supervision, to keep kids from doing those stunts they want to do, is a must. Kids will be kids and adults need to be there to watch out for them."

However, Adams warns that while safety nets can prevent injuries from falls, they can also lead to a false sense of security for parents.

"Just because you have safety nets doesn't mean it is definitely safe. Parents can't let their guard down just because there is a net," he said. "One kid without a safety net is still safer than two kids jumping with a net. Constant, responsible adult supervision is a very important rule."