Rethinking Healthcare

The brief and tragic history of the trampoline

Posting in Technology

After less than a century of existence, these vehicles of both trauma and glee appear to be going the way of the dinosaur.

One of my purest moments of absolute happiness occurred a few years ago in a backyard in Olympia, Washington. I'd traveled there to visit a friend, and while waiting for her to arrive home my friend Ken and I noticed a large trampoline behind her house. On a whim climbed up on it. We gave the trampoline a few tentative bounces, then worked our way up to real jumps. Soon the reverberations of our leaps were propelling each other with more momentum than our childhood bodies had ever permitted. My heart raced and I was giggling both from the exhilaration of the movement, and the delight in the foolishness of the endeavor.

Though I'd pined after the large trampolines that dotted my childhood suburb, my parents would never consider letting my sister and I have one. "They're too dangerous!" was their decree.

A new study in the journal Pediatrics details such risks, reports the New York Times.

The first trampoline was patented in 1945. The first statement against them from the American Academy of Pediatrics came out in 1977.

The Pediatrics study found that injuries from trampolines rose steadily through around 2005, but have been on the downswing since. Slowed trampoline sales, as opposed to safer trampolines, appear to have caused the decline. The Times' Laura Geggel reports:

Nearly 98,000 people were injured on trampolines in 2009, 3,100 of them seriously enough to be hospitalized, according to study data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which collects emergency room information in select hospitals and uses it to estimate nationwide injury rates. That represents an injury rate of about 32 injuries per 100,000 people, compared with 38 injuries per 100,000 in 2004.

The most common injuries were sprains, strains, fractures, bruises and soft-tissue injuries. Though less common, head and neck injuries were the most serious, and accounted for more than 10 percent of all trampoline-related E.R. visits.

Children, especially those under six years old, are the most commonly and most seriously hurt by trampolines. As the smallest people on the trampoline, they're most vulnerable to injury. Precautions like one-person-at-a-time policies, safety nets, and frame padding might help, but still the lead author tells Geggel, "It's not a toy."

With continually sagging sales, and continuing scorn from pediatricians, it's doubtful the backyard trampoline will last much beyond the next decade. But, dear trampoline, thanks for the memories.

[via The New York Times]

Photo: Suburban Paparazzi/Flickr

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Audrey Quinn

Contributing Writer

Audrey Quinn is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist focused on health, tech and the economy. Her radio stories can be heard on Marketplace, Studio 360, PRI's The World, NPR's Latino USA, Deutsche Welle Radio and The Believer Magazine podcast. In addition to her work with CBS Interactive she produces multimedia science stories for online publications and is a teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop. Her investigative work has been awarded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure