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Small children and trampolines a risky combination

It is recommended that just one person at a time jump on trampolines, and that children be supervised at all times.

Children under six must be supervised when using trampolines, says the president of the Paediatric Society of New Zealand.

An American mother's Facebook post about her 3-year-old son's traumatic trampoline injury went viral when she shared her doctor's advice that children under 6 should not use trampolines at all.

In New Zealand there is no age guideline for trampoline use, and trampoline parks commonly advertise special sessions for toddlers. "New Zealand is full of risk takers," said Dr David Newman of the Paediatric Society. "That doesn't mean we take stupid risks."

Dr Newman said children should take turns on trampolines, to reduce the risk of injury, and that an adult needed to actively supervise them at all times, ready to intervene if necessary. "That does not mean holding a beer at the other side of the yard, standing by the barbecue." 

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Florida mum Kait Ellen's son Colton broke his femur during a trampoline park's "toddler time" session and was put in a cast from his hips to his ankles that he will wear for 6 weeks.

Colton's doctor told Ellen that both the American Academy of Paediatrics and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons warned against children under 6 using trampolines.

Ellen wrote on Facebook: "Colton fell and broke his femur, the strongest bone in his body, while innocently jumping alongside his dad and I. Come to find out, according to the AAP and the AAOS 'children under the age of 6 should never use a trampoline'.

"This is due to the fact that their fragile bones are not meant to withstand the repetitive pressure from jumping. We had no idea and were shocked to find this out from our pediatric orthopedic surgeon during Colton's hospital stay."

While the Paediatric Society of New Zealand does not have a specific policy around the age when children can safely use trampolines, Dr Newman said it was important they jump one at a time as the risk of injury leapt 14-fold with multiple jumpers, with young children at greatest risk of injury.

There were 11,580 trampoline injuries reported to ACC last year, costing $4 million in treatment. The majority were children aged 5 to 9. 

Between 2007 and 20ll, according to data collected by Safekids Aotearoa, there were 672 trampoline-related hospital admissions for children under 6, and a total of 1537 hospital admissions for children up to 14.

This averaged out to 25 hospital admissions a week for children with trampoline-related injuries.

Safekids Aotearoa's position paper on trampolines states that "infants and toddlers have limited motor skills and cognitive capacity to use a trampoline safely".

In Australia, Standard 4989 states that children under 6 should not use trampolines and Kidsafe Western Australia, which wrote a report on safe trampoline use, says children under 6 are not developmentally ready to use trampolines. 

In the United Kingdom, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents also advises against children under 6 using trampolines, "because they're not sufficiently physically developed to control their bouncing".

Here in New Zealand, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which governs the safety standards for trampolines, suggests that "particular care" is given to children under 6. 

WorkSafe New Zealand, which sets safety standards for trampoline parks, acknowledged last year that there had been a spike in injuries at the parks since they became more common in 2014.​

Trampoline parks commonly run sessions specifically for small children. A quick scan of websites found Uptown Bounce, a chain of trampoline parks in Auckland and Wellington, runs Toddler Time sessions for under-5's; Gravity Trampoline Park in Auckland welcomes children aged 9 months and up; Dialled trampoline parks in Rotorua and Tauranga run Little Jumpers sessions for pre-schoolers; and Jump in Auckland and Hamilton run toddler and preschool sessions and recommend children under 5 jump with an adult. 

TRAMPOLINE DO'S AND DON'TS

* Always ensure children are supervised by a responsible adult, especially young children who are more vulnerable to injury.

* Only one person should be on a trampoline at a time.

* Don't allow tricks like flips or somersaults unless there is a trained adult present to show children how to do them safely.

* Always use safety pads covering the frame and springs.

* Inspect trampolines regularly.

* Make sure the safety net is closed before jumping.

* Don't bounce off the net.

* Don't use a trampoline when it's wet.

* Children under the age of six years should use a trampoline appropriate for their age and size (check manufacturers' guidelines).

SOURCE: Safekids Aotearoa

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