Trampolines are 'very, very dangerous,' says Calgary doctor

Dr. Raj Bhardwaj says overzealous bouncing sends many Calgarians to his urgent care clinic.

Patients suffer concussions, broken wrists, ankles and ribs

Calgary Eyeopener health contributor Dr. Raj Bhardwaj warns that backyard and other recreational trampolines pose a significant risk of injury, especially to younger children. (Samuel Peebles/The Daily Citizen/Associated Press)

Trampolines are fun, but they're also risky. In fact, overzealous bouncing sends hundreds of Canadians to the emergency room every year.

"They're a lot of fun and they're very, very dangerous," said Dr. Raj Bhardwaj, who has treated three people with trampoline injuries in the last week.

One of them will require orthopedic surgery and another had a badly broken ankle. Then there was the teenager who did a flip, and whacked his neck on the metal frame.

"If he had fallen a bit differently, I would not have been surprised if he had been paralyzed," he said.

Type of injuries

Bhardwaj says most breaks and bruises don't actually happen when you fall off a trampoline, but while you're on still on the central mat.

"You're just bouncing funny and you land funny," he said

Bhardwaj says both Canadian and American pediatric, as well as sports doctors, have come out with position statements on the dangers of trampolines.

While most of the data is already a few years old, it all points to similar trends.

Fractures are the leading injury, followed by bruises and abrasions and then and sprains or strains.

The latest report on trampoline injuries looked at children, ages zero to 17, who visited the BC Children's Hospital between January 2012 and December 2013. 

It found the ankle, elbow and head injuries were most often treated.

Trampoline parks also risky

Injuries don't just happen in your backyard, says Bhardwaj.

He says indoor trampoline parks — a popular venue for children's birthday parties — also pose a risk.

"Those are basically just a network of trampolines in a grid and in between those, though, are the non-bouncy metal parts that are padded, but they're not bouncy. So if you land funny on those you end up not bouncing, and you end up hurting yourself quite badly."

How to stay safe

With the rise of childhood obesity, some parents may see the trampoline as a fun way to get their kid more active. 

If you choose to take that risk, Bhardwaj has this advice:

  • One person on the trampoline at a time. No exceptions.
  • No kids under six. Bhardwaj says it's too high a risk for them.
  • No flips or somersaults as those tricks can greatly increase both the risk and severity of injury.

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