Mar. 3, 1998 COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A new study is calling for a ban on backyard trampolines after researchers discovered the number of injuries to children using these devices has doubled during a recent six-year period.
The study, published in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics, showed that almost 250,000 trampoline-related injuries were treated in hospital emergency departments in the United States between 1990 and 1995 and that the annual number of injuries grew from 29,600 to 58,400 per year during that period.
Gary Smith, director of emergency medicine at Children's Hospital of Columbus and assistant professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University, said injuries on these devices have reached epidemic proportions and that the sale of backyard trampolines should be immediately stopped.
"We've seen the number of trampoline-related injuries skyrocket in just six years and the trend doesn't show any signs of slowing down. Instead, it's continuing to increase," Smith said.
Smith turned to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a database maintained by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, to compile statistics on trampoline-related injuries during the study period. He found that 93 percent of such injuries treated in hospital emergency departments were traced to trampolines in the home environment. The data provided Smith with some specific, alarming conclusions:
The number of injuries increased by 98 percent over the six-year study. More than 70 percent of the injuries were to the children's arms and legs.
Younger children tended to have injuries to their arms and the majority of these were fractures or dislocations.
Younger children also had a higher rate of facial injuries, most often lacerations.
Older children most often injured their legs and these injuries tended to be bruises, sprains, strains and contusions.
About 3 percent of the injuries were serious enough for the children to be admitted to the hospital.
Head and neck injuries accounted for 12 percent of the injuries in younger children. In older children, the figure was 7 percent.
"It's alarming that these injuries are increasing at a rate that is rare to see for any other product out on the market," Smith said. "This is a public health problem that needs to be addressed with stronger strategies than those currently in place."
Smith said that while most of the injuries covered in the study were to the children's extremities, there have been some deaths reported as well as severe injuries to the spinal cord, "which usually lead to paralysis and quadriplegia," he said.
Smith believes that supervision by parents will not adequately prevent these injuries.
Last year, Smith reported on a study he'd done assessing the dangers of babywalkers by younger children. He said that more than twice as many trampoline-related injuries are treated in hospital emergency departments annually compared to babywalker-related injuries. There is, however, clearly a national consensus on the need to ban babywalkers but, he said, even though they produce twice as many injuries and the number of injuries is increasing dramatically, trampolines are still being sold for home use.
"I think it is time to say that trampolines are simply unsafe for the home setting. Home trampoline use is something that we should consider unsafe for children, and it should be stopped," Smith said.
The researcher says he has no pleasant solution for parents who have already bought a home trampoline for their children's use.
"If you have one, simply don't use it. And if you haven't bought one yet -- don't!"
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