Originally created 03/03/98

Trampoline injuries to children soar to 'epidemic' level, study says



CHICAGO -- Trampoline injuries to children are soaring and most of the accidents happen at home, according to a study issued Monday. A manufacturer said trampolines are safer than bicycles.

Children suffered 58,400 trampoline injuries in 1995, almost twice as many as just six years before, according to a report in the March issue of Pediatrics. Ninety-three percent of the injuries took place at home, it said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics warned about the dangers of trampolines in 1977 and issued a policy statement in 1981 saying that it is never appropriate to use them in homes or recreational settings, noted the report's author, Dr. Gary A. Smith.

"Trampolines were designed as training devices, and they were never intended to be used as backyard toys," Smith said in a telephone interview Monday from Columbus, Ohio, were he is a pediatrician at Children's Hospital.

He said parents "think ... if they supervise their children, follow the safety directions, that these things can be safely used in the back yard. And that is a myth."

A spokesman for the nation's largest trampoline manufacturer said sales of the devices rose fivefold nationwide during the study period, and that the findings attest more to the increasingly safe use of trampolines than to their dangers.

"You're several times more likely to wind up in the hospital from riding a bicycle than from bouncing on a trampoline," said Bud Nichols, general manager of Jumpking Inc., based in Garland, Texas. "But they haven't suggested not riding bicycles."

Nichols was citing data on an outside study of comparative risks in childhood sports and everyday activities. According to Failure Analysis Associates Inc., the risk of an injury requiring hospitalization from riding a bike is triple that of using a trampoline.

Smith said more injuries happen on the center of a trampoline than when someone bounces off and lands on the ground.

"That's because when people attempt to do somersaults, they come down on their necks and cause a permanent spinal cord injury," he said.

About 1,400 injuries per year -- 3.3 percent -- resulted in hospital admission or transfer to another hospital for treatment, the study found. The data did not indicate how many spinal-cord injuries or disabilities occurred, Smith said.

An average of one child a year dies from a trampoline-related injury, according to figures kept by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, on which the study was based, he said. The real number may be higher, since there is no requirement to report trampoline deaths, he said.

The study covered the years 1990 through 1995, when trampoline-related injuries suffered by children up to age 19 rose from 29,600 to 58,400. The increase continued in 1996, though that year's data were not available in time to include in the report, Smith said.