Indeed, more than 288,000 people – most of them children – wound up at a hospital emergency room in the United States with broken bones over a 10-year period, costing more than $400 million in health care costs, according to researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Those figures don’t include people who sought help at an urgent care facility.
Including all injuries, not just fractures, hospital emergency rooms received more than 1 million visits from people injured in trampoline accidents during those 10 years, boosting the emergency room bills to just over $1 billion, according to the study.
The research, published online in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics, is the first to analyze trampoline fracture patterns in a large population drawn from a national database, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Randall T. Loder, chair of the IU School of Medicine Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and a surgeon at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.
“There have not been any large-scale studies of these injuries,” Dr. Loder said. “We wanted to document the patterns of injury. This gives us an idea of the magnitude of the problem across the country.”
Dr. Loder and his colleagues retrieved data for all trampoline-related injuries for the decade beginning 2002 from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.
About 60 percent of the fractures were upper-extremity injuries, notably fingers, hands, forearms and elbows. Lower-extremity fractures most commonly were breaks in the lower leg – the tibia and fibula – and ankles. Just over 4 percent involved fractures to the axial skeleton, including the spine, head, and ribs and sternum. An estimated 2,807 spinal fractures were reported during the period studied.
“Fortunately, there were fewer spine injuries than might have been expected, but those can be catastrophic,” said Meagan Sabatino, a study co-author and clinical research coordinator for pediatric orthopedic surgery.
While the average age for most of the injuries was about 9 years old, the average age for axial skeleton injuries was 16.6 years old.
“They’re probably jumping higher, with more force,” Loder said.
“And believe me, teenagers are risk takers. Younger kids may not understand potential outcomes of their actions, but they’re not so much risk takers. Teenagers, they’ll just push the limit,” he said.
Nearly all of the fractures, 95 percent, occurred at the patient’s home. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons strongly advise against home trampoline use.
In an effort to reduce the number and severity of injuries, the AAOS recommends the following guidelines:
- Use of trampolines for physical education, competitive gymnastics, diving training and other similar activities requires careful adult supervision and proper safety measures.
- Trampolines should not be used for unsupervised recreational activity.
- Competent adult supervision and instruction is needed for children at all times.
- Only one participant should use a trampoline at any time.
- Spotters should be present when participants are jumping. Somersaults or high-risk maneuvers should be avoided without proper supervision and instruction; these maneuvers should be done only with proper use of protective equipment, such as a harness.
- The trampoline-jumping surface should be placed at ground level.
- The supporting bars, strings and surrounding landing surfaces should have adequate protective padding.
- Equipment should be checked regularly for safety conditions.
- Safety net enclosures may give a false sense of security – most injuries occur on the trampoline surface.
- Trampolines are not recommended for children under 6 years of age.
- Make sure trampoline ladders are removed after use to prevent unsupervised access by young children.
Source: University of Indiana news release, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
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