There Are Dangers With Backyard Trampoline
Question: Our two children, 10- and 12-years-old, have been bugging us to buy a trampoline. They enjoyed it when they visited their friends who have one in their backyard. I am worried about them getting hurt. Can you give us some advice?
Backyard trampoline is getting more and more popular in recent years. Many children enjoy jumping on it, and this can improve their physical fitness. However, there are many concerns about trampoline safety, and you need to know them before buying one for your family.
Trampoline was originally designed for use in gym facilities, under the supervision of trained staffs. Pilots and astronauts were trained on trampolines to help them develop better perception of their body position. In recent years, trampolining involving breath-taking flips and somersaults has emerged as a high performance sport, and was first introduced in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. All of us would be mesmerized by the improbable flips and twists of these athletes, bouncing up and down on the trampoline. What is not known to most people is how much training these athletes have gone through, and the kind of precaution that they used during their training to prevent serious and sometimes life-threatening injuries.
Backyard trampolines, however, are not constructed the same way as professional units. They can still be safely used if certain rules are being followed. Most of the injuries occur when children fall over each other; therefore, only one person should get on the trampoline at a time. Falling on top of the metal frame and springs can cause serious injuries; these metal parts should be covered with padding. Steps should not be placed beside the trampoline so that very young children cannot climb on it. Trampolines should be positioned at a safe distance from furniture, fence, as well as trees. Children should not be allowed to do flips and somersaults on trampolines because these are dangerous moves, and have caused many serious injuries and some deaths. They should not bounce off the trampoline onto the ground: this would almost guarantee serious injury, Instead, they should stop bouncing and then walk off the trampoline slowly. Adults supervision is required at all times, although this does not guarantee complete safety.
Before you decide to buy this trampoline, ask yourself whether it is better that your children go to their friend’s house to play on such equipment, or have one in your backyard so that you can supervise them and their friends. If you decide to set up your own trampoline, make sure you purchase one that carries all the safety features that I mentioned. There are some that have a netting around the trampoline. This netting is supposed to stop anyone from landing on the metal frame and springs, therefore, reduce the chance of injury.
You also need to go over the rules with your children and their friends before anyone gets on the trampoline—it is easier to follow clearly defined rules at the outset. If you watch trampoline gymnastics with your children, make sure they understand that the dazzling flips these athletes perform is the result of years of training, with proper equipment and supervision, something that they should not even attempt on the backyard trampoline.
If you want to learn more about this, I have written a column in October 2002. The Canada Safety Council also has additional information at www.safety-council.org.
In addition to trampoline, I would like to take this opportunity to explore the issue of safe activity with all readers. As we all know, there is great concern about childhood obesity in many countries around the world. Because of sedentary lifestyle as well as over-nourishment, many children are gaining weight excessively. The best way to prevent this from happening is to teach our children sensible eating habits and regular physical activity. We need to encourage children to spend less time in front of television and computer games. These two types of entertainment are very attractive to young people because of their visually stimulating effect. Therefore, physical activities need to be interesting also.
Organized sport is a great way to keep children active. Many children in Canada enjoy soccer, softball, baseball, tennis, swimming, ice hockey, skating, just to name a few. Other recreational activities like biking, skateboarding, rollerblading, jogging, and running are also excellent to keep them fit. Some children are more inclined to join team sports, while others enjoy recreational activities with their friends and neighbours. The important thing is to maintain a high degree of physical activity daily throughout the year.
Although being physically active is important, being safe while doing it is just as important. Injuries happen every day around the country, on playgrounds, along streets, and in gyms. A large portion of these injuries are totally preventable if children and parents pay attention to safety issues. Many playground equipments do not comply with safety regulations (or they were built before these regulations were put in place). Parents should check these playground equipments before allowing their children to get on. If the equipment is unsafe, report to the local government to take corrective measures, don’t depend on someone else to report. Parents should also pay attention to their children’s clothing, drawstrings have caused many injuries and even deaths when children get trapped with these strings around the neck. Children should wear appropriate footwear, injuries to ankles and feet can be avoided easily.
Children should wear helmets when they rollerblade or ride their bikes. Helmets can prevent serious head injuries. Parents need to insist their children putting the helmets on properly before getting on the bicycle. Our police also need to enforce the bike helmet laws that are already in place in many provinces. Children also need to learn that they have to follow traffic rules, and walk their bicycles across busy streets.
Finally, I should discuss about two popular motorized vehicles: all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and snowmobile. ATVs can have 3 or four wheels. The 3-wheel version is much more unstable, although the 4-wheelers can still roll over, causing serious injury and death to their occupants. In Canada and United States, about 25% of deaths due to ATVs happen to children and teenagers. As a result, the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) recently recommended that children under 16 should not operate an ATV, and everyone should go through approved training before operating such vehicle. Proper safety equipment, including motorcycle helmet, eye protection, and appropriate clothing and boots should be required.
Similar concerns have been raised regarding snowmobiles. Both ATVs and snowmobiles are powerful machines that demand respect and care. Young children do not have the strength and motor skill to operate these equipments.
Parents need to set the rules for their children before they get involved in these activities for the first time. If you are buying an equipment, read the owner’s manual which often spells out the potential dangers if there are any. Talk to some of your trusted friends who own the same kind of equipment to find out whether they have experienced any concern. You can get additional information about safety issues from Canada Safety Council, Canadian Paediatric Society (www.cps.ca) and American Academy of Pediatrics (www.aap.org).