The Short of It
A doctor says there's no safe age for a kid to jump on trampolines, but young children are especially at risk for serious injuries—and not in the way you might think.
It seems like trampoline parks are everywhere these days—a quick, easy way to kill time and let your kid expel some energy. But an Eyewitness News investigation found that tens of thousands of kids are seriously hurt on trampolines each year, and young children are especially at risk for serious injuries, but not just from falls.
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Yes, there are tragic injuries from falls, like the one that paralyzed teen Austin Dodd after he failed to land a backflip on his backyard trampoline.
"The doctors said he smashed his spinal cord pretty good," Dodd's father, Bruce, who thought padding and a protective net around the outside of the trampoline would keep his son safe, told WTHR News. "They say he'll never walk again."
But it doesn't take a fancy gymnastics move or even a fall to result in trauma.
"He was just jumping; then he came down and started screaming," mom Carrie Clark told WTHR News about her trip to a local Sky Zone "Toddler Time" with 2-year-old son Cooper. "I was right there with him, supervising the whole time. He was just jumping with no other kids around. And he's 2. How can jumping just a few inches on a trampoline end up with a broken leg?"
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The answer may surprise you. "Pediatric bone is different than adult bone," Dr. Randall Loder, an orthopedic surgeon at Riley Hospital for Children in Indiana, told WTHR. "The younger child's bone, it's softer. It's more compressible. It's spongy. Pediatric bone can fail relatively easily. If the forces are just right, it can snap."
And this kind of thing apparently happens all the time: According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 24,318 children ages 2 to 5 suffered trampoline injuries serious enough to land them in the ER in 2014, and 42 percent of those incidents included in broken bones.
These are scary statistics, especially considering that my kids were just at a trampoline park last weekend! Yet trampoline parks continue to market directly to parents of toddlers—even advertising special "Toddler Time" blocks of play—without ever mentioning the CPSC numbers.
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"People think that a fracture in a child is a simple thing just to put a cast on, but that's not necessarily true," said Dr. Loder. "I don't think the public really understands the magnitude of the severity of some of these injuries that can happen.... We all want our kids to be active. We all want them to be healthy. But there's lots of other things to do besides trampolines. I just don't think there's any safe age for a child to be on a trampoline—period."