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Parents On Alert As Injuries Rise From Bouncing On Trampolines

May 23, 2005 |

WHEN KERSTIN GOLDSMITH and Jon Morgan got their trampoline inherited from friends who were moving they also got a copy of the friends' liability form.

In stern language, it gives the trampoline rules, including no somersaults, no horseplay and no jumpers younger than 6. Parents were asked to sign before their kids could bounce.

Goldsmith and Morgan, who live in El Cerrito with their son and daughter, do not use the form. But it did make them think.

Trampolines are more affordable than ever. At a mass-market sports store, you can get a full-size model and a safety net for $300. And they're selling briskly. The most recent estimate by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says
there were more than 3 million backyard trampolines in use in the United States in 2001, the most recent year for which data are available.

But with popularity comes a price. Nearly

100,000 people visited the emergency room in 2003 because of injuries on trampolines. In 1990, the number was 37,500 visits.

Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics says backyard trampolines are unsafe, and that trampolines should only be used in gymnastics training or rehabilitation facilities.

Dr. Dennis Durbin is a physician on the national AAP committee for injury, violence and poison prevention, and an emergency room doctor in Philadelphia.

He says the most common way kids get hurt on trampolines isn't falling off it's when they collide with other kids in midair or land on the trampoline awkwardly.

Most injuries are sprains and strains of the arms and legs, bruises and cuts. More serious injuries include broken bones and dislocated joints. In 2001, two people in the United States died using trampolines.

"For parents to think that by standing near the trampoline that they would beable to catch their child if they fall from it or affect the way their child lands it's a false sense of security," Durbin says.

That's what San Mateo Dad Jon Wetherbee learned when his son Jacob was 2. While visiting his grandparents' house, Jacob wanted to go on the trampoline. Wetherbee sat on the edge, figuring he could catch his toddler son if he looked wobbly.

"He was simply jumping," Wetherbee says. "His leg just cracked and he screamed in a way I had never heard him scream before. He was crying, but it wasn't like his leg was bent in two. After a couple of minutes, we realized it was serious."

Jacob is now 5, and his leg healed fine, but his parents got quite a scare.

"We let our kids jump on the trampoline still, but we say one at a time," Wetherbee says.

The CPSC recommends that no child under the age of 6 play on trampolines.

At the Polishuk household in San Mateo, if the kids are outside, they're on the trampoline, says mom Vivian.

"My kids just like hanging out there," Polishuk says. "They sit out there with their friends and chat. It's like a cozy little net."

Twelve-year-old Alex and 11-year-old Alina have been bouncing in the back yard since they got the trampoline six months ago.

Polishuk says trampolines are definitely a trend.

"We got a trampoline and then three weeks later another friend got a trampoline and then another one got a trampoline," she says.

Vivian says that she and her husband Don thought about the safety concerns before they got their 9-foot by 16-foot rectangular trampoline. They bought one with netting so their kids can't fall off.

"The kids love trampolines," she says. "And we try to instill in them: Look, don't have six people jumping at the same time. If you want to have friends over you can all go out there and play, but you can't all jump at the same time."

Polishuk, who says she goes out to jump for exercise, says there's risk in everything.

"We've taken as many precautions as we can, and we get the kids to be responsible when they're out there," she says. "The kids can't resist it. Everybody loves coming over and getting on the trampoline. We try to be as careful as we can, but there's risk in walking out the door."

As for the Goldsmith-Morgan family, mom Kerstin Goldsmith says they probably won't keep the trampoline for too much longer. Five-year-old Zeque and 7-year-old Kasja are already a little bit tired of it.

"The novelty wore off about, um, one month later," Goldsmith says.

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