Homeowner’s Guide To Trampolines
The kids want a trampoline. Should you get one? Are they safe? Are they a hassle? Unfortunately, the answers are not all clear-cut.
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Backyard trampolines can be a lot of fun, so it’s no surprise kids and teenagers have them on their wish lists. Buying one, though, is not something to do on impulse; it should be strategic and thoughtful.
Not only do you have to decide which trampoline is right for your family (there are numerous shapes, sizes, brands, price ranges and more), you also need to consider whether getting a trampoline is right for your family at all.
A trampoline isn’t a toy that encourages kids to stay active, according to Marc Rabinoff, a professor emeritus in the human performance and sport department at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. It’s a training device originally meant only for high-caliber athletes, and can be dangerous if not used safely.
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The History of the Trampoline
A high-caliber athlete created the trampoline. George Nissen, a diver and gymnast, came up with the idea in 1930 after watching circus acrobats use safety nets to break landings.
Nissen wondered whether he could create something else for them to land on, something that would allow continued bouncing upon completion of the initial stunt.
The idea went through many iterations. After lots of trial and error, Nissen received a patent for his “tumbling device” in 1945. Before long, NASA and the U.S. military used trampolines as training tools for pilots and astronauts. It also grew in popularity among the general public around this time.
In 1962, the International Gymnastics Federation officially recognized trampolining as a sport. It debuted as an Olympic sport at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia, with Nissen in the audience. Nissan died in 2010 at age 96.
Despite his interest in trampolining, Nissen had safety concerns — not so much for the pros, but for people trying trampolines for fun. According to his alma mater, The University of Iowa, he urged people to avoid recreational use.
His concerns remain valid to this day. SafeHome.org’s Summer 2022 Summer Safety Guide reports home trampolines lead to more than 100,000 emergency room visits per year. Injuries range from a broken arm to life-altering and catastrophic paralysis.
“For all age groups, trampolines were a top-three cause (of ER visits) and the single biggest (product-related) cause for children 10 and younger,” the report states.
The report also indicates that most injuries are directly related to falls and/or botched moves, like somersaults and flips. This is especially common when more than one person is on the trampoline at a time.
In light of those statistics, the American Academy of Pediatrics discouraged home trampoline use since at least 2012, when it first published an official policy statement on trampoline safety. The report was recently reaffirmed and updated.
Basic Trampoline Safety Tips
Despite the safety concerns, some families buy trampolines anyway. Here are some things that can (and should) be done to make sure everyone on a trampoline stays as safe as possible.
- Only allow one jumper at a time.
- Place the trampoline on a level surface, away from concrete, rocks, trees, poles and any other surface or structure you wouldn’t want someone flying into.
- Use an enclosure (i.e. a net that surrounds the trampoline).
- Don’t allow flips, somersaults or other tricks, even by those with relevant athletic training in gymnastics, tumbling or acrobatics.
- Always land with both feet on the trampoline mat, says Paul Hagan, co-founder/owner of MaxAir, a company that manufacturers trampolines for home, commercial and competitive use. One-legged landings can potentially cause injury.
- Never allow kids to use the trampoline without adult supervision.
- Recognize the risks, bearing in mind that a home trampoline is not the same as the trampolines you find at gymnastics training facilities.
Maintaining Your Trampoline
Another way to help people stay safe on a home trampoline is to make sure it is always in good repair. Fortunately, maintenance is straightforward.
Here are some things you can do to make sure your trampoline stays in good shape:
- Keep it clean. MaxAir’s user’s guide suggests washing the mat with a soft brush and mild detergent and scrubbing the vinyl safety pads with 303 Multi Surface Cleaner.
- If the mat rips or tears, fix it right away with a trampoline mat repair kit.
- Regularly check that all parts are secure, the frame is stable and the springs are intact. Your trampoline’s instructional manual should tell you how to do these things.
- Replace broken or rusty springs immediately. Amazon sells a variety, or you can get them directly from your trampoline manufacturer.
- Consider covering the trampoline up in the wintertime, or any time of year you aren’t using it. Also, remove the bed and springs when the trampoline isn’t in use and store them indoors. The frame can stay outside.
- Closely follow the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines, which may vary from this list.
Choosing a Trampoline
Still up for owning a trampoline after learning the safety and maintenance requirements? There are a lot of choices out there, and you’ll need to spend some time looking before making a decision.
The main things you’ll need to consider are shape, size, springs vs. no springs and above-ground vs. in-ground.
- Shape: Home trampolines come in round, oval, rectangular, square or octagonal. Round is a typical choice for the average family, but rectangular ones offer superior bounce. All five shapes feature pros and cons. When deciding on shape, read the manufacturer’s specs to decide which is best for your situation.
- Size: You’ll determine size based on how much space you have and who intends to use it. Standard off-the-shelf round trampolines typically range from eight- to 15-feet. But in reality, depending on how much money you want to spend, the sky is the limit. MaxAir makes custom trampolines so you can get just about any size you want.
- Springs vs. no springs: Trampolines with springs typically have metal frames. Steel coils keep the mat attached to the frame. Trampolines without springs use flexible rods to form a platform for the mat. Are these safer? Because they don’t have metal and steel parts for kids to hit their heads on, manufacturers of springless trampolines tend to say yes. However, as with any trampoline, safety is ultimately dependent on whether users follow basic safety protocols.
- Above-ground or in-ground: This is a lot like the difference between an above-ground and in-ground pool. For an above-ground trampoline, you pretty much just buy it and set it up. For an in-ground (which Hagan says are becoming popular), you’ll first have to dig a hole in the ground, or hire someone to do it for you. The frame goes inside the hole and the jumping surface sits atop the hole.
Is It Hard To Set up a Trampoline?
A lot of homeowners set up their own trampoline, especially if it’s above ground. You’ll likely need a few tools; read the directions for your specific trampoline to determine exactly which ones.
Professional installation is another option. Some manufacturers offer the service for a fee, but you can hire independent installers to do the job as well. As with any service professional, make sure they have the proper credentials necessary to do the job.
How Much Does a Trampoline Cost?
You can get a 10-foot trampoline with an enclosure net for less than $300 on Amazon. You can also purchase a custom trampoline from a company like MaxAir for more than $30K. That’s a significant range, to say the least. Bottom line: Trampolines can be really expensive or quite budget-friendly.
Is It OK To Buy a Used Trampoline?
No, Rabinoff says. Even if you find what seems like a good one on Craigslist for $150, the money you’ll save isn’t worth the risk of buying one with an unknown backstory. “You don’t know the condition of a used trampoline,” he says.
Trampolines and Homeowner’s Insurance
Another cost associated with a trampoline involves your homeowner’s insurance.
“Owning a trampoline can increase your homeowner’s insurance rates because some insurers require a surcharge [to] cover your trampoline,” says Kara McGinley, a licensed property and casualty insurance expert at Policygenius. Some, she says, will cover trampolines as long as they’re netted.
Furthermore, some insurers refuse to cover trampolines at all because, she says, covers are an “attractive nuisance” that increase the risk of injury to guests. For these reasons, always check your policy before purchasing a trampoline.
McGinley says you should also think about increasing personal liability coverage, so you have some protection if a guest injures himself or herself on your trampoline.
Trampoline Health Benefits
Despite all the seemingly negative aspects of trampoline ownership, there is at least one positive — the health benefits. Hagan says jumping on a trampoline can increase your cardiovascular fitness, bone density and muscle strength.
Some people, he adds, might not realize how much of a workout it is. Ease into it, especially if you’re new to trampolines and/or exercise.
“Like other forms of physical activity, using a trampoline has risks,” says Chris Gagliardi, scientific education content manager with the American Council on Exercise. “Aside from following the manufacturer’s safety recommendations, it is a good idea to start low and slow and to gradually increase the intensity, speed, time, frequency, the height of jumps, and variety of jumps as you become more comfortable and learn more about how the trampoline makes you move.”
And if you have any reservations? Well, don’t feel bad about skipping the trampoline in favor of something safer. Your kids may protest, but there are lots of other options.