We’re athletic people who consider physical activity a priority for us and our kids. Babyboy, like many children with autism, would prefer to be quietly building Legos on the floor of our living room. His developmental pediatric team comments every year that his balance and body awareness are poor, and his core is weak.
But oh, do we try! We go on family hikes and bike rides, and he whines, complains, and falls over. We’ve tried the town soccer league, which was so painful, I don’t want to talk about it. We’ve done swimming lessons at three different places over the past two years, and Babyboy won’t do much other than splash around, with his feet firmly planted on the pool floor. We’re paying for therapeutic horsebackriding lessons, and while Babyboy loves riding Mr. Biggles, it’s forty-five minutes, once a week.
We’ve had the most success with anything woodsy, but while Babyboy will tool around in the forest for hours, he’ll end up examining a bug-infested log or building a branch bridge across a small brook, not moving around much.
Meantime, Hubby was an athlete as a child. He played t- ball, softball, and baseball at home, the park and at school. His high school team went to the State Championships; he was captain. His entire career is built around sports. He lives, breathes, eats sports. And me, I’m a runner. Or at least, I used to be, with several marathons under my belt (cough, ahem, more than a decade ago). Now, I prefer spinning or stairclimbing, but I’m still addicted to exercise.
So, admittedly, it’s been kind of a bummer having a kid who has to be prodded to do anything active. Not to mention, it’s just not healthy.
But then, this Memorial Day weekend, we went to visit family. They live in a rural area, and they had this big trampoline. The kids had a blast. Babyboy, especially. As a matter of fact, he wouldn’t get off the thing. Hubby had to drag him inside after dark. He bounced for HOURS.
Now, as a physician, I know the party line on trampolines is a big NO. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends against the use of trampolines. At all.
But there we were, witnessing a miracle: The child who literally and happily will spend ALL DAY on the living room rug building Legos was BEGGING for more trampoline time.
So, knowing that I have had well-founded disagreements with AAP recommendations in the past, I went to the primary data so I could make up my own mind.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that trampolines are safer than just about every other common childhood recreational activity. And, plenty of research shows that trampoline training programs have been shown to improve core strength and balance, even in kids with developmental disorders.
Get this: The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has a huge database called the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). They have been collecting emergency room data on injuries related to different products and activities from about 100 hospitals around the country (including children’s hospitals) for a decade. The data is extrapolated to estimate national statistics. It’s all available online, too. Check out this easy-to-read 2015 injury data report.
The injury report summary is broken down into age groups. For my purposes, I’m focusing on children between the ages of 0 to 14 years, and on the most common activities, and only for the most recent reported year (2015).
The most injuries reported, far and away, are on playgrounds, with approximately 221,468 injuries for kids age 0 to 14 years old.
Next up: Basketball (174,734), Bicycles (168,471), Soccer (106,231), Pools (96,768), Baseball (95,804), and then, Trampolines (84,959). The trampoline data includes home trampoline as well as trampoline park injuries (you know, those big indoor wall-to-wall trampoline businesses where just about everyone’s birthday party is held these days).
It is important to keep in mind that these are just flat numbers of injuries per year, and aren’t weighed by how many kids are participating in each activity. These data also don’t tell us what kind of injuries were sustained, and which activities are more lethal.
That data is available, however. Playgrounds can be SO dangerous! Again, emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries every year. Per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about half of all playground injuries are severe, involving fractures, dislocations, amputations, and head injuries. Climbing equipment and swings are the most associated with injuries. Should we be banning playgrounds?
Bicycles are particularly dangerous. The (CDC) report that in 2013, over 900 bicyclists were killed and there were an estimated 494,000 emergency department visits due to bicycle-related injuries. Children (5-14 years), adolescents and young adults (15-24 years) accounted for over one-third of all those injuries. A 2013 AAP special report indicates that most kids who died or suffered permanent injury in bike accidents had serious head injuries. With numbers like that, should we be banning bicycles for kids?
Meanwhile, back to trampolines. An analysis of data from 2002 to 2011 shows that the vast majority of injuries from trampolines were to the extremities, that is, the arms and legs. NOT the head and neck. Head and neck injuries accounted for only 4% of reported injuries. Most of those tend to be when people are attempting flips and somersaults. And the most serious leg injuries occur when there are multiple kids jumping at the same time.
There’s more data, more studies, more numbers. Yes, your basketball, soccer, or baseball-playing kid can get seriously injured playing those sports. I’m tired of researching and this post is getting long. But the gist of it is, there’s LOTS of equipment and activities that can result in injuries to kids, WAY more injuries and WAY worse injuries than trampolines.
So are we going to lock our kids inside and not let them do anything? Ha. Duh. No.
We have rules and we supervise kids playing in general. We watch them at playgrounds. We teach kids that they need to wear a helmet when biking, and how to ride safely. We teach kids not to attempt flips and somersaults on a trampoline, and discourage multiple jumpers at one time.
And with all these activities, no matter what we do, our kids may get injured. That’s just the way it is.