Nearly 20 years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics took a strong stance against trampolines. Not much has changed since 1999. Statistics show that home trampolines are still widely popular and still injure tens of thousands of children.

Pediatricians — and orthopedic surgeons — recommend no trampolines, period. But if you must allow it, you can make it somewhat safer. Also, be aware that your homeowner insurance may not cover trampoline injuries.

How dangerous are trampolines?

Trampoline sales are still strong at about 500,000 a year, despite the warning from children’s doctors and the surgeons who operate on injured kids. A joint study on trampoline safety by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Consumer Products Safety Commission reports some eye-opening statistics:

  • Trampolines have a high injury rate – Trampoline injuries send 90,000 people to the emergency room each year. However, injuries have declined since 2004, perhaps due to education about the dangers.
  • Trampolines are getting less safe – An industry group says that in 1989 the average trampoline was designed to last 10 years. Today the average life expectancy is only 5 years. Warranties have also gotten shorter.
  • The perimeter is dangerous – About 20 percent of injuries are caused by direct contact with the springs and the trampoline frame. Padding does not do much to reduce this risk.

Do parents know the risk?

Some parents knowingly accept the risk of fractures and sprains. Millennials especially are pushing back against “helicopter” parenting. We can’t shield children from life because they might get hurt. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

But many parents who own or allow kids to play on trampolines are not aware of just how dangerous they are. About 3,000 kids who suffer trampoline accidents are hospitalized or permanently disabled each year – broken legs, dislocated shoulders, skull fractures, severe concussions, neck injuries and paraplegia/quadriplegia.

If you are going to allow trampolines anyway …

Trampolines are fun. You only live once. We get it. There are at least steps you can take to minimize the risks:

  • Protective netting. The injury rate is still high, but trampolines with nets can reduce the risk of broken bones and spinal injuries when kids go flying off.
  • Adult supervision. Never let children use a trampoline unsupervised.
  • Be careful with young kids. Children under the age of 5 are at greatest risk for severe injury.
  • One jumper at a time. According to the AAP, 75 percent of trampoline injuries occur when there are two or more kids jumping. The risk of head injuries rises exponentially with each additional person.
  • No aerial somersaults or backflips. Acrobatic fails are the main cause of cervical (neck) and spinal injuries, including permanent spinal cord damage.
  • Do not use a broken trampoline. If the equipment is compromised in any way (broken springs, torn mat, torn net) it should be discarded.

Aside from the risk of injury, you must consider the liability risk. Before you let neighbor kids and cousins jump (or your own kids), verify whether your homeowner policy covers or excludes trampolines. You may need to purchase a special rider on your policy.