A Surprising Trampoline Tumble

Hi Readers: From today’s mailbox, an intriguing little piece. – L.
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Dear Free-Range Kids: I have two boys — 6 and 8 — and am learning about letting go. Can I talk about a “What If?”  a little in reverse?
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I took the stupid netting off my kids trampoline because I thought it was making them complacent about how to jump safely. The net was always there to stop them from learning.
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A month ago my boys and a friend were all jumping and the friend decided he would push my older son off the trampoline and guess what? He broke his arm. And you know what? That has been the best experience for him.
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He has learned to write with his other hand( better than his previous script). He has played with Lego with his one good hand and has never complained. His resilience has been remarkable and he was not that resilient before. It’s all because, “What if I took the netting off and they had to learn how to jump safely rather than rely on the nets to keep them in?”
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I am so very proud of how he has handled this whole situation. — Caroline

85 Responses

  1. Bravo- They will never learn the right way to do anything if we always do it for them (My son when he was nine- sliced his finger with a wood carving tool- 6 stitches later- he learned how to properly hold a tool for the hobby he still does).

    Hope you continue down the free range path!

  2. Although a broken arm is negative, but it sounds like in this instance, all the positive came out of it.

  3. I love hearing of this.

    I will admit, though, in my case, I tend to be a bit selfish. That is, I absolutely cannot stand spending hours in an emergency room. I mean, really, I climb the walls and go stir crazy. I would have a tendency to try to protect the children from injury, even if it’s very anti-free range (as in the trampoline example), simply to save me from spending 8 hours in an emergency room. Awful isn’t it?

    LRH

  4. It is interesting that the current trendy method to learn to ride a bike is to not use training wheels. They teach bad habits, and the rider never learns the proper way to turn. Remove the pedals as well and scoot along so you get the idea of handling. Of course the marketing geniuses are making scooter training bikes without pedals cranks on chains, but I digress. The point is that safety equipment causes behavioral changes and not always for the better. Helmets have caused higher risk taking. Body armor ups the ante that much more. I think everyone finds the risk level they are comfortable with. Safety equipment can push safety out to dangerous levels.

  5. It might be somewhat better to teach kids to ride without training wheels, but realistically, isn’t that how most people, who can now ride bikes just fine, learned?

    And most did not sustain any serious degree of injury from the risk-taking behavior promoted by the extra safety cushion. So while I don’t dispute that there might be a legitimate issue here, I can’t see it as being a very large one.

  6. I’m curious if the author’s home owner’s insurance knows that the trampoline doesn’t have a net anymore.

    @BobB I’d be interested how the connection between helmet use and risk taking is actually measured. It sounds like one of those things that sorta makes sense, but is hard to gather real empirical evidence for. I’m not even saying it’s not true, I just don’t see how we’d know it. And I’d also beware of the logical other extreme. If wearing helmets leads to increased risk taking, then so would seat belts. So having a spike in the steering wheel pointed back at the driver would make one even more careful, no?

  7. @pentamom. True, most people learn w training wheels and do fine. The new method gets them there faster because most kids lean out of the turns and must learn the opposite once the training wheels come off.

    My theory on the helmets is just an observation of the growth of extreme sports with all of the high elevation jumps on BMX and skateborads. Those stunts would not likely be attempted without helmets.I’m a big proponent of helmet wearing (I try not to “use” it if you know what I mean). I’ve only broken one helmet in thirty years of bike racing.

    I just acknowledge that risk taking is always an assessed measurement. When the equipment allows it the risk taker will risk more. Putting walls up on a tranpoline may prevent falling over the edge but it introduces a new dynamic to bounce and deflect in different directions.

  8. Hello @BobB. You have a good point about safety equipment. Years ago I watched a doco about car safety features and driver behaviour (a.k.a. the Volvo factor). One safety expert on the show was asked what equipment would make drivers drive more safely and he replied, “A big spear poking out from the steering wheel.” Obviously, not implementable but he made an interesting point.

  9. What a great lesson learned, if a bit painfully. Kids are resilient. I hope the friend took the lesson that goofing around like that can be a problem too.

  10. Since I broke my right wrist twice when I was 11 because of two stupid little accidents, I’ve never been able to write as fast or as good with that hand. Over 24 years later I still can’t play tennis with it because the impact of the ball on the racket hurts and I get carpal tunnel like tingling in that hand when I type for longer than 20 minutes.
    It’s a ‘learning experience’ I could’ve glady done without.

  11. Another sort of “what if” reversal–

    When I was 5, my dad gave me a Swiss Army knife and let me use it, somewhat supervised, to sharpen sticks in the back yard. I remember sitting on a bench with him in front of the fireplace as he gave me the knife and he told me that, no matter how carefully I used it, I was going to eventually cut myself very badly and probably need stitches, so if I was afraid of getting stitches, I probably shouldn’t use the knife. I weighed it for a second and, being the kid I was, insisted that I just wouldn’t get cut and got to sharpening sticks. 24 years later I am still stitches-free and I use pocket knives (carefully) all the time (though both people whom I have given them to as a gift have sustained substantial slices). I feel like that was often how my dad treated potentially dangerous situations… informed me that I was going to injure myself, and then let me do it anyway.

    Though he was wrong about the pocket knife, he was usually right about other injuries– though with ample practice falling the right way, dropping sharp objects and climbing trees with sundry items in my pockets, I never broke more than a finger or toe. Learning the right way to do the wrong thing helps!

  12. You should sue.

    Just kidding.

    Re the driving, I’m speaking from impression rather than data here, but it does seem to me that a direct result of the far greater survivability of automobile collisions is riskier driving.

    Although I have to slap down my MIL every time she starts fabulating about how child kidnappers lurk around every dark corner (watched Pinocchio too many times, perhaps), I do consider the threat to a child of death or dismemberment from encountering a car to be greater than when I was a child.

    It seems to me that people drive faster and with less attention than when I was young. Drivers have more distraction (cell phones) and less punishment (if you crashed a 60s metal box, you’d take a lot more of the impact yourself). Making the car safer for the driver has made it more dangerous for everybody else.

    I try not to be an over-worried parent, but I find the reality of actual threats to my child irreducible. Maybe only 155 kids get kidnapped by strangers each year, but 250,000 are injured in car accidents and 800,000 need medical treatment for dog bites.

  13. My son jumped OFF a trampoline and chipped his elbow. The ER doctors went on and on about how dangerous trampolines are and how they see so many broken bones from trampoline injuries. I kept telling them this was NOT a trampoline injury. He could have been jumping off anything!! That’s what little boys do. The parents thought I was going to sue. Heck, I didn’t even take him to the ER for two days because I was sure it wasn’t broken! (Bad mommy award that day).

    My kids are both involved in high risk sports: motocross and horses. We take reasonable precautions and teach them that they WILL get hurt in these sports and they have been. But it’s what they love and we are all willing to take the risks on while doing out best to be reasonable.

  14. Usually, this site has stories about “What if…” thinking being unreasonable and worst case scenarios never coming to pass. In this case, the “What if…” thinking was accurate and your son suffered a broken arm.

    Leaving the safety netting did cause a serious injury and most parents would not think that breaking an arm in order to learn to use a non-dominant hand was a net positive.

    There is value to looking on the bright side of life, and when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade, but this article sounds like ideological overreach and, I think, misrepresents the societal changes this web site is trying to foster.

  15. What’s also good about this is, it answers the question, “What if he fell and broke his arm?”

    Well, he’d suffer pain and inconvenience and learn that a moderate injury is not the end of the world.

    Injuries of that nature shouldn’t be taken lightly, and should be avoided, but I think we and our kids need to come to grips with the fact that stuff happens and you can survive it. I think sometimes thinking that survivable things are the end of the world forms the background of all this “what if” thinking and fear of everything. We don’t need to make the claim that the bad things won’t happen if we’re less that perfectly “safe”; we can also live with the understanding that not everything is life and long-term health threatening, and there’s a difference to be split.

  16. And I understand that this genuinely “could have been worse,” also. But it’s all a judgment call. Since you can’t shield from everything, and shielding from things beyond a particular point causes positive harm in terms of not being able to do things and learning to fear the ups and downs of life, it’s a judgment call and something you have to weigh.

  17. I don’t think taking down the netting was a good idea. That’s not free range. That is just being unsafe. Glad he didn’t fall on his head.

  18. I’m pretty free range but this goes too far for me.

  19. The down side of “learning” is when learning is too dangerous. Any ER doc knows what trampolines are capable of (ditto backyard pools). This kid broke his arm, but the next will break her neck.

    Like the parable of the crocodiles, some lessons must be taught by the grown-ups.

  20. We had one of those giant trampolines when I was younger (25 now).

    I had no idea they even made nets for them.

  21. Erin — My grandparents had one for us when we were kids (I’m 23 and the oldest of three), and it didn’t have a net, though it did originally have pads covering the springs and holes. I didn’t know they made nets for them, either, until about 5 years after they got the trampoline.

    For us, it was always just kind of understood that if you did something stupid enough that you’d fall off, you’d most likely get hurt.

  22. As my FIL often says, “why fear, if there are hospitals?”. Okay, he has always been a bit reckless for my taste (and that’s saying something!). He’s got half a finger amputated, titanium hips since he was 50, false teeth since he was 30… But man, has he got interesting stories to tell!
    As for children getting hurt… Well, from my experience, I’d say that they find new and exciting ways to kill themselves every day. Fortunately, adults around me (friends, family and even pediatricians) think that children often act plain stupid, and there’s really nothing anyone can do about it.
    I mean, my 6 yo daughter just the other day, tied a jumping rope around her neck (yes, I exhaustively explained to her several times why she is definitely not allowed to do that). Then, she tied the other end to the uppermost part of the playground slide (what for, she didn’t explain). And then, she tried to slide down. Which she couldn’t, of course. No harm done, eventually, just an ugly bruise on her neck (which she was proudly showing off next day at school). And she managed to do all that in the time I took to wipe the toddler’s nose!
    Talk about “what-ifs”, who could have predicted suicidal, lemming-style behaviour?

  23. Also, death by trampoline is exceedingly rare. Like, lower than stereotypical kidnapping, rare.

    11 deaths from 1990 to 1999.

    Injuries requiring a trip to the hospital are more common – about 100,000 in 1999 (I haven’t been able to find more recent stats yet).

    Ironically, most injuries happen on the trampoline, not from falling off, from people doing things like somersaults, or colliding into one another.

    In 1999, injuries to the leg/foot were reported most frequently, accounting for 40% of the total. Injuries to the arm/hand accounted for 29% of the total, head/face/neck accounted for 20%, and shoulder/trunk were associated 10% of the total. – fscip.org

    http://www.ehow.com/list_6824200_injuries-deaths-related-trampolines.html

    http://www.ehow.com/about_6307561_backyard-trampoline-safety.html

    http://www.fscip.org/tramp.html

  24. To clarify – most injuries happen on the trampoline, from doing stunts or colliding into other jumpers, not from falling off.

  25. I agree with much of the above, “safer” cars are demonstratively more dangerous for the other people around them.

    (read the book Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt: http://tomvanderbilt.com/traffic/the-book/ for some interesting research and observations on this)

    And I believe that this behaviour IS globalized to other activities being as it is human nature.

    That said, I don’t think I would have taken the netting of a trampoline. If my child had gotten hurt anyway, and learned those lessons that would have been an unmitigated positive… as when my daughter broke her arm riding her bike from my house to my mothers at age 9. She had a helmet, was on a safe road, and was stopping to dismount before crossing the ‘busier’ road ahead of her. Sadly, she hit the front brake before the back… and went over the handle bars. A mistake she has never made again, and as with Caroline’s son she learned patience and to use her other hand, and to be more careful in general.

  26. @Erica and others who think the netting should have been left up: my son broke his index finger falling backwards off a trampoline *with* a net when he was four – they’re not foolproof, and they can cause a false sense of security.

    And guess what? Three years later, he is very cautious on trampolines now.

  27. Unfortunate that her son’s arm was broken in the process. But, it has brought out other positive things. The son now knows he can take a licking and keep on ticking, which would boost his confidence. That having use of only one arm isn’t the end of the world. That when he gets hurt, he will heal, and know better next time. And in directly (and hopefully), his friend learned the value of playing safe. Without that incident, and being sheltered from all other incidences, that boy would probably never learn any of those valuable life lessons and about himself. We didn’t evolve mentally, emotionally, physically and technologically as humans, by sheltering ourselves. We all went through the trial and errors, and curiousity to make advances. And it was literally “survival of the fittest”. It’s no different now.

    Children aren’t that fragile, and EVERY kid gets hurt one way or the other growing up. You can’t avoid it, so why not make a lesson of it. it’s like my pappy always told me “no matter how old you get, you never stop learning. That’s how we better ourselves than we already are.”

  28. My older son ended up in the ER one day because he decided, out of the blue, to try to swing from a backpack strap hanging in the basement by his teeth. He pretty much yanked three front teeth half out of his gums, tore his gum, bled all over the place. Thank God they were baby teeth. But my point is that I could not have forseen that he would do this. No safety gear or parental lectures could have prevented this. Sort of never hanging up the backpacks (obviously my sons’ solution), this was a random event. And boy, did he learn his lesson about doing stupid things. He and I also learned – painful accidents are not the end of the world. Although I wouldn’t wish this injury on him (or anyone) it definitely caused him to start reevaluating some of his risk taking and asking himself “Hmm, if I do this thing that seems like a good idea, what will be the consequences?” Couldn’t ask for a better teaching tool than a few prematurely yanked teeth.

  29. What if we do risky stuff? Some folks will get hurt. Fortunately most of the injuries will be treatable/manageable and we may even find positive aspects in the experience — plus we get whatever the benefits of the activity were in the first place.

    Yet while the absence of safety netting in this story doesn’t (particularly) trouble me, I have to say one of the most basic rules of trampoline safety I know is that only one person should be on a trampoline at a time; for our family, that’s one of those “if you don’t follow this rule you won’t be allowed on the trampoline” kinds of rules. While I think one can reasonably plan around the absence of safety netting, even independent one kid pushing another, multiple bouncers on one trampoline seems to me to be asking for an accident.

  30. My ‘what if’ thinking regarding the trampoline (which we are buying for my 6 and 8 year old) is, “what if one of their friends falls off and gets hurt and the parents sue me? I know I can have the parents sign wavers, but I dont know how well those will hold up in court. I almost want to tell my kids nobody can play on it except them. And that makes me sad.

  31. So put up a net, and make kids jump by themselves?

    Why bother having a trampoline? That doesn’t sound like fun at all.

    My parents would usually sit outside and watch us jump, but that was the extent of the safety features we had in place.

    Hell, we’d play Popcorn (anyone?), where a couple of kids would sit cross-legged and hold their feet, and a couple more kids would jump, launching them in the air, trying to get them to let go.

    Accidents happened (mostly knocked heads), and we were always aware of the danger of falling off and doing more serious damage to ourselves…but it was a risk we were allowed to take.

    *shrug* To me, this doesn’t seem any different than allowing a kid to climb a tree…or a flight of stairs. I’ve fallen down the stairs WAY more times than I ever fell off the trampoline or out of trees.

    Seems to me that the injuries were always comparable, and usually the fault of my own stupidity/recklessness/being a kid.

  32. I think I agree that taking down the netting was, on balance, an unwise move. I just like the fact that the experience demonstrates the difference between “accident” and “unmitigated disaster.” So much of the helicopter impulse (even that which lingers in those of us who want to be more Free Range) is based on the idea that every bad thing that could happen would be an unmitigated disaster.

  33. I’m glad you can see the positive in this experience, but my netting will stay up, we will all continue wearing our seatbelts, we’ll wear helmets when we ride our bicycles. Some safety tools serve fantastic purposes. While the “why fear if there are hospitals” may be one way to go, I’m with the “if there’s a safety net provided why not use it” school.

    My little girls have hit the net hard on occasion. Sure, they could be more careful when they jump, but I’ve never seen them hit the net unintentionally, nor when on the tramp alone. It always has to do with two or more mismatched bouncers on the tramp at once.

    Now, if we wanted to be safer, we’d disallow multiple jumpers – but, heck, then we might as well just disallow the tramp altogether. For little kids especially, the fun in the tramp is community jumping.

    So, we do what we can to keep ‘em safe, then hope like hell we can get to the hospital 30 miles away in time.

  34. Every time I think of kids and trampolines, my first thought is of the Simpson’s episode when they get a free one. After all the kids in the neighborhood get on the trampoline, they show the kids getting hurt and then a scene from Gone with the Wind of injured kids laying on the ground (thousands of them.)

    My second thought is of gymnastics with the kids flipping and jumping around.

    I let my kids bounce at other people’s houses. But really, I feel that trampolines require proper supervision, and in reality, I am not going to sit there and watch the kids non-stop so that they can bounce. Call me selfish. And as the poster said, the issue was not her son, but rather someone coming over who was not as aware about how to play safely.

    My kids have many other ways to get their thrills (tumbling over the front of the bike on the washboard road, sledding into irrigation posts, climbing trees or other kids roofs, or other things.) We have some rules about safety – wear a helmet when on the bike, tumble off the sled if headed toward a post, walk on the side of the road, things like that. And as for the person who said that bike helmets make kids more daring, well, my kids have not done any of the Evil Kenevil stuff that my brother tried that ended up with him getting stitches. I don’t let them watch shows like Jack Ass either. Mostly because we don’t have cable.

  35. Not sure if taking the netting off was a good idea or a bad one. However, I think it’s important to note that while the kid could have fallen, he didn’t. He was pushed.

    So maybe the moral of this story is that with greater freedom comes greater responsibility. Perhaps we need to remember that the freedoms that we implement for our kids can become real dangers when kids who are not used to freedom get involved. And therefore, we should instruct those other children and be prepared to ban some who won’t play by the rules necessary when there is freedom to hurt yourself and others.

  36. We never bought ‘safety’ netting for our trampoline. It’s just a trampoline. We don’t even have padding over the springs (seemed like something that would grow slick and dangerous mold in the damp of central Florida).

    We did read up on the dangers of them and find that most injuries happen from the surprise trajectory changes that are caused by multiple people being on the trampoline at once and have a one-person-at-a-time rule for ours. So far, no injuries.

    The most dangerous thing in our back yard seems to be the slide when the children found that sliding down on their backs, head-first, means that their head hits the ground first at the end. The most painful thing in the back yard is the sweetgum balls from trees that were there long before the house was.

    Home insurance. Home insurance is horrible in Florida anyway. There are two whole companies that will cover a home with a trampoline and they never asked if we had netting. Just trampoline or no-trampoline rates. I don’t think that will be an issue for her.

  37. @B.S.H.: Unfortunately though, that concern isn’t about Free-Range, it’s about what the parents of the other child will do. In this case, I say better safe than sorry…as in cover your ass.

    Maybe talk to the parents of that child. Do you know them well? I’m taking not too much if you have those concerns. A waiver is a waiver, as long as there is a witness. Sometimes even a verbal agreement can be legally binding. It is sad that some people have to resort to this because of others opportunistic ideas.

  38. I lived in Australia until I was 21, when I came to the USA to get married. I had never, in my whole life seen a trampoline with netting until I got to the USA, and when I saw it, I thought it was one of the most ridiculous things I had ever seen in my entire life.

    Yes, I had a trampoline growing up. I was six when we got it. I loved it and sometimes spent hours a day on it. I jumped, did flips and all sorts, all without ridiculous looking netting (do you guys seriously know how stupid it looks to have that crap on trampolines). And seriously, the netting looks like it would break easily. So if a heavy kid flies through it, it will break and they will get hurt. So what is the point again?

    That to say, I NEVER had a trampoline injury, after spending hours a day on the thing (I jumped while my sisters watched TV) and I did backflips, belly flops and all kinds of crazy things because it was fun. And all 3 of us would jump on the trampoline at the same time.

    It’s just a trampoline. We’d jump off shed roofs that were much higher than that and never got hurt either. It’s not that far to the ground from a trampoline.

  39. My main issue is multiple trampoline jumpers. I work in x-ray and have anecdotal evidence and actual studies showing that most trampoline injuries are to the smallest jumper when there are two or more on the trampoline.

    This is a real increase in risk, so I’d avoid it. I’m not going to avoid trampolines, though. It might depend where you draw your own lines. Keep in mind that some childhood fractures are quite nasty, especially elbows.

  40. I’m still failing to see how letting an 8yo get pushed off a trampoline is a free range thing. I thought free range was safety items like helmets were OK, giving your kid freedom to roam was another. To me, netting on a tramp is a basic safety device….one that works. I would think the ‘free range’ part is that the kids were in the backyard alone. What am I missing?

  41. Our first pediatrician asked us to promise to never even buy a trampoline, so we haven’t.

    I feel like we’re missing out!

    Then again, we are a family of klutzes, so what we’re actually missing out on probably amounts to a series of concussions resulting in permanent brain damage. I can deal with that.

  42. I’ve got a net on my trampoline, and sorry, it’s not going anywhere. If my kids were the only ones who ever used it, then maybe I could be satisfied with teaching them to jump safely. But we have neighbor kids on the trampoline all the time, including kids I hardly know. Some kids bring along their 3-4 year old brothers and sisters. An injury may still happen, but at least I’ve done what I can to reduce the risk. And BTW, I don’t believe that anyone has less fun because the net is there.

  43. I’m also not a fan of trampolines. I won’t get one because the injury risk. I’m not worried about broken arms- I’m worried about head and neck injuries. I’m worried about the neighborhood kids sneaking onto it while we’re at the store and being liable for any injuries they sustain. The kids have plenty of fun jumping during open gym and at jump zone type places.

    I’m a big believer in taking reasonable safety precautions, though. I won’t buy an ATV or motor bike for a child under 16. I won’t have a pool in my backyard. If they ride bikes they have helmets, if they’re in a vehicle they are in a properly used child restraint. We still have fun, but within reason, I know too many people close to me who have sustained serious (and several fatal) injuries due to not taking reasonable safety precautions.

  44. EXACTLY! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard , “Well, what if he does this or that and gets hurt??” all in a quiet, worried, slightly judging voice and I just say, “Well, then he’ll learn, won’t he?” He’ll learn that fire is hot or the knife can cut and make you bleed or being all crazy on your bike might make you fall and skin your kee.

    I just had a really good conversation with the Boy the other night about risk vs. concequences :) He got it right away.

  45. We’ve had a trampoline for 30 years – got it when I was a pre-teen. NEVER had a netting, and my first thought when I saw netting on a trampoline was,,,

    “One of these days a kid is going to hang himself on that.”

    It’s the most stupid “safety” thing I’ve ever seen. How is this even keeping a kid safe? It’s teaching them horrible habits.

    In 30 years, with some safety rules (no more than 2 at a time, take turns – and if neighbor kids come over, they MUST follow the rules or they are not allowed to jump), NO ONE has gotten hurt on our trampolines.

    I’d never have a net. I do think a child can – and honestly, probably will – get far more seriously hurt due to the net than due to jumping properly.

  46. “One of these days a kid is going to hang himself on that.”

    I don’t know what kind of net you saw, but I can’t in my wildest imagination picture that. I don”t think even a baby has a head small enough to fit though one of the loops. And what are these horrible habits? Being able to jump on the trampoline without having to worry about falling off? Wow, how horrible. I still have rules, of course. The biggest possiblity of injury is kids bashing into each other, so I still limit the number of kids to a maximum of 2 or 3 who are actively jumping. Let me make clear that I am not saying that those who choose not to have nets are bad parents & blah blah blah. But to say that the nets make the trampoline LESS safe, is in my opinion, pretty dumb.

  47. The nets may not make the trampolines any less safe, but they sure make them far more ridiculous. Hey, why don’t we just wrap our kids up in cotton wool while we are at it.

  48. I don’t think that safety net is there is stupid. You can think of it as a seatbelt in a car. It would be very stupid NOT TO HAVE ONE! My sister happens to be a director of a assistant living home, where one third of the residents -between the ages 20 to 30- are paralyzed either from neck down of from waist down from having had an accident on the trampoline. What about the other two thirds you may ask. Well, they also had accidents; mostly in motorcycle accidents or from jumping into the swimming pool from the shallow end. They are still trying to live a “normal” life; studying, working, and having fun with their friends. But they must be thinking: WHAT IF I had been more careful?

  49. That’s a nice way of putting a spin on a bad accident, I guess. In my opinion, safety is the way to go. I think there’s a very clear distinction between taking safety precautions and giving our kids freedom to explore and learn. I’m happy to let my son ride his bike to a friend’s house, but he has to wear his helmet. I’m happy to let them play outside by themselves, but they wear sunscreen. I can see how the netting might make them more reckless, though. Rather than remove the netting, I know my kids would respond well to a jumping rule. If you touch the netting while jumping, you’re done jumping — or whatever. Might not work for all kids, but mine are at that stage where they get proud of themselves when they listen.

  50. we bought the tramopline and the net. we put it together and told the girls all about how the net is for safety and they should not deliberately jump into it–just ignore the net. almost everytime they crawled through the hole, the zipper caught their hair. they have both lost their balance crawling out of the net and landed on the ground. and wouldn’t you know it–after two years of 3 season use, the one time my daughter’s bounce went wild and the safety net was actually put to the use for which it was created, purchased, and installed, IT RIPPED AND SHE FELL ON THE GROUND– FLAT ON HER BACK. we followed all of the storage directions on the item and had it installed properly and still, fate/bad luck/whatever reared up and there was an accident. thankfully, she wasn’t seriously injured. but my point is, whether or not we had a safety net on our trampoline, whether or not there was horseplay among the jumpers, a kid ended up crying. she lived.

    also, my husband has been a paramedic for 20 years. he says that in all the trampoline injury emergency calls he’s responded to, most of them have involved trampolines WITH properly attached safety nets.

    the point? shit happens, even in a padded world.

  51. ‘Watching’ the kids while they jump does not provide any kind of safety. You’ll be there to pick them up when they have fallen down, that’s all.
    But anyway – having a net is not detrimental to jumping, so that sets it apart from the stupid things we free rangers are against, like stopping kids from playing, walking and biking out of some stupid fear of strangers or badly defined dangers.
    Falling off of a trampoline could end very, very badly, and if a safety net reduces that risk without making the trampoline any less fun, why not?

  52. Jenn, I want a t-shirt that says “shit happens, even in a padded world”!
    also I’ve heard of kids catching their teeth on those nets and ripping them (the teeth) out. that said, trampolines are risky netted or not, thats part of the thrill. teaching our kids how to evaluate dangerous situations is part of free range parenting. What are the potential (and likely) consequences, is it worth the potential consequences? what kind of an adult will it make them into if I Never let them do these things?
    what is worse, a childhood broken bone, or a whiny sniveling adult whose afraid to move out of mom and dad’s basement?

  53. Yes I realize that last sentence was hyperbole, even helocoptered kids grow into “real” adults.
    (sometimes) ;)

  54. We don’t have a net on the one at my parents’ house, and no one has fallen off yet, despite my sister’s fiance doing ridiculously stupid stuff on it. The new one we need to buy to replace the current one, however, will have a net. Why the change? My 19-mo-old LOVES the trampoline, and has since she could stand up. While we are very careful when she’s on it, she doesn’t understand that if she falls off, it will hurt. The reasoning skills just aren’t there yet. The net won’t replace careful supervision, it’ll just minimize maternal heart attacks. Once she (and any cousins that come along) is old enough to know not to run of the edge, it’ll probably come back down.

  55. I guess the point about trampolines is this: If there is a danger that a child or an adult can get paralyzed jumping incorrectly or with too many people or with or without a sturdy net installed around the trampoline, is it worth taking the risk to jump at all? Or what they’d need is proper instruction first. Just like one gets a driver’s licence, diver’s licence, or a pilot licence where also a mistake that takes only a few seconds can kill you. I’m all for free ranging but with raising kids with who are smart enough to know where there is real danger of getting paralyzed and where there is not. OK, now you might say that how many kids of the millions get paralyzed so statistically it’s not significant. Ask those kids and adults who were hurt what their opinions are.

  56. 9 years of having a trampoline and (knock on wood) not one bad injury – and I refuse to have the safety net! And if a child fell and broke their arm? Wouldn’t change my mind. Bumps and bruises are not the end of the world, if I could count the broken bones and sprained ankles that my mother had to deal with with me and my three siblings… yeah, not going there.

    My children, ages now from 17 to 2, have all learned to jump without being reckless near the edges.

    Been called a terrible mother for this one too, but I sleep very well at night, thank you very much!

  57. I am totally Free-range parent and try not to be a What If thinker, but the only good I see that occurred is that this kid didn’t break his neck. Kids wear seat belts for a reason, kids wear bike helmuts for a reason and there are nets on trampolines for a reason.

  58. 450 people died from falling out of bed in 2004. Maybe my kid’s beds need nets too? I mean, it’s preventable, right?

  59. I’m free range but if I get a trampoline, it will be with a net. A broken arm may not be a big deal but a broken arm that could have been easily prevented with a safety device that doesn’t impact the enjoyment of the activity is stupid. If your child needs to break his arm to learn to jump properly, he shouldn’t have a trampoline. Even with a net, the is a dangerous activity so there should be rules to follow when jumping and failure to do so results in removal from the trampoline. No need to remove the safety device to learn to jump responsibly.

    Taking your logic down a similar train of thought, no safety devices are ever needed. Helmets, seat belts are all pointless. I’m sure your kid will learn something from the concusion he gets falling off his bike without a helmet. He’ll probably also learn something from the injuries he sustains in the car accident he gets into without a seat belt as well. I sure that my child would learn to rock climb faster if I took the rope off and let her fall off the wall a few times. But where do we start drawing the line about these type of lessons?

    Would you still be a cavalier about this if your son suffered a permanent injury? Personally, if my child was paralyzed falling out of a tree, I would not blame myself for letting her climb the tree. She enjoys climbing trees and there is no way to make the activity safer without preventing it outright. On the other hand, I’d never forgive myself I if I took the netting off the trampoline and my daughter fell off and was paralyzed. That was a very preventable injury – preventable while still enjoying the activity itself.

  60. I don’t think I could ever have a trampoline…I cringe at the thought knowing my kids. Net, no net, my kids would end up hurt somehow and I’d be a nervous wreck, lol. The more dangerous stuff they do…they do elsewhere. Away from me where I can’t watch. I might know they are doing it but “out of sight, out of mind” for me. The only times my kids have been on trampolines have been at other people’s houses. Most recently my 9yo son was at a friend’s house and came home complaining his wrist hurt. Come to find out he was jumping on a trampoline and landed hard on his hands. Sprained his wrist.
    I didn’t go off half-cocked, try to sue the family or whatever. I just sighed, wrapped his wrist and told him he’d be more careful next time. He comes home injured from friends’ houses all the time. Amazing the group risk taking mentality.
    Of course, he doesn’t have me around reminding him, “if you get hurt I don’t have a car or the money to take you to the ER,” lol.
    He likes to climb the tree in our front yard. I just told him to not fall out and break something. And when they continue to do stupid things after I’ve warned them to be more careful I tell them, “if you get hurt I’ll have little sympathy for you.”
    I’m also seen the connection with more protection=more risk taking. The safer cars get the crazier people drive. We watch nascar and the more safety stuff they put on those cars the more spectacular the wrecks as the drivers get complacent about the safety gear. Epitomized a couple years ago when one driver actually veered off in front of another driver (trying to keep his lead) at such a steep angle and speed that he careened into the wall on purpose, hoping to bounce off like in the video games. WTF! These are professionals. What really happened was his car slammed into the outside wall, someone else hit him and he flipped up into the fencing along the track sending debris flying into the crowd (which, I believe, broke a woman’s jaw and injured several others). Completely preventable but he knew he wouldn’t get hurt thanks to all the safety devices in the car. (And this is my favorite driver that pulled the stunt…spectacular to watch but utterly stupid and avoidable).
    I’ve also seen it with the bike helmets and padding. The kids with the most padding do the stupidest things on their bikes. We never wore that stuff and wouldn’t have thought to try stunts like that. Except, maybe, my brother who built a ramp in our front yard (about a foot high). I jumped it, too, on his bike until I almost wiped out. He continued to do it until he landed weird, went over the handlebars and slid about 6 feet on his face. I was watching and completely freaked out (I was about 14-15 and he was 12-13). His face was tore up but he got right back on the damned bike. I had to go inside, lol. He never got hurt again, having learned his lesson on landing properly.
    Oh, and it’s usually the mundane things that injure us the most spectacularly around here. Worst injury to date in my family? My dad breaking his wrist in 2 places and his arm requiring extensive surgery, pins and screws in his arm, off work for months, long recovery and loss of functionality in his arm. What was he doing? Putting Christmas lights up on our house, standing on a 6′ high ladder. It’s been a running gag in our neighborhood for years (I was about 16 when it happened). Only replaced in hilarity (because of the stupidity) by my neighbor chopping off his finger with a snow blower several years later.

  61. “450 people died from falling out of bed in 2004. Maybe my kid’s beds need nets too? I mean, it’s preventable, right?”

    I’m sure that I could find a simarly minscule number of people who suffered a head injury while falling out of bed. Those injuries would also be preventable by sleeping in a helmet. Under your logic, that means that people should not wear helmets while riding a motor cycle.

  62. Nope – people shouldn’t ride motorcycles because those injuries are preventable. Isn’t that the whole “must have a net because that prevents them from getting hurt” mentality here? If it can be ensured that an injury is preventable, then we must do it.

    I watched a 20/20 show not long ago that showed how bikers that were not all padded up and helmeted actually rode safer, and the drivers passing by them gave a wider berth. Those with bubble wrap were reckless and cars regularly passed within 12 inches of them on the road. This net thing is the same example.

    Trampolines are a blast. BEST investment we ever made. Kids outside ALL the time. And they jump safely. One at a time or five at a time. But hey – they’re much safer sitting on the sofa playing video games. Wait – I better sit them on the floor. They can fall off the couch.

  63. At the very least, do your due diligence and investigate your homeowner’s insurance with regard to your trampoline:

    http://ezinearticles.com/?Trampolines-and-Homeowners-Insurance-Coverage—How-a-Trampoline-Affects-Your-Home-Insurance-Policy&id=1361847

    @Sandra that’s ‘fall involving bed’ not ‘fall out of bed’.

    I think it’s probably your grandparent who could use a lower bed to make it easier to climb into, and make sure that if it has wheels, that they auto-lock.

    I’m not convinced nets do all that much good, but I cringe when I hear people making safety decisions based on “I didn’t need one when I was a kid!” or “we all die someday!”. Both true. But neither address the cost benefit of the safety measure!

    “I heard about a kid who caught his teeth on one” is just like “I heard about a kid who was raped in the bathroom”.

    Yes, shit happens. That’s why we used to have outhouses, and now we have indoor plumbing.

  64. “Nope – people shouldn’t ride motorcycles because those injuries are preventable. Isn’t that the whole “must have a net because that prevents them from getting hurt” mentality here? ”

    Hummmmmmmmm. Actually it’s a completely different mentality. The same mentality would be say that you should never jump on a trampoline – net or not – because those injuries could be prevented. Nobody is saying that.

    Netting on a trampoline does not equal not jumping on a trampoline; just like riding a motorcycle with a helmet does not equal not riding a motorcycle. Netting on a trampoline (safety device) equals a helmet while riding a motorcycle – you are engaging in a dangerous activity but making it somewhat safer by using a safety device.

  65. @Sandra
    I didn’t see that 20/20, but it sounds suspiciously like a study done in Britain. http://www.helmets.org/up0609.htm

    As BobB and I discussed, it’s not easy to really tell how much people’s risk acceptance increases if they wear safety equipment. In the case of, say, downhill mountain bikers, they wear more padding BECAUSE they’re going to do something risky. If they didn’t have the padding, they might not consider doing it at all. So even if you can show a correlation that still doesn’t show direction of causation.

    In the British study I cited, it was about how drivers changed their behavior based on their perception of the cyclist. Nothing about how the cyclist behaved. It appears as if drivers were more wary of non-helmeted cyclists, and gave them more distance.

    Taking reasonable safety precautions (you know, seat belts, working brakes…) doesn’t mean bubble wrap your kid and keep her inside on the couch.

    Reasonable, Reasonable, Reasonable.

  66. I don’t think the net would have really prevented one boy from pushing another off something. I am curious to know what happened to the pusher. Any lessons learned for him about why one shouldn’t push someone off something or was it a great thing that he did so to the other boy could learn about gravity and non-dominant hand writing?

  67. Does anyone know an orthopedic surgeon who could give us some insight in what type of damages or chronic injuries to one’s spine, joints, etc. result from jumping outside on a trampoline “all the time?”

  68. I had to laugh when I read this. I also broke my arm by falling off a trampoline when I was a kid. Yeah, it hurt, but you know what? I learned a lot from it.

    I learned to be more careful about falling off stuff, and I also learned how to write with my left hand, which was pretty cool.

    Since when are children never supposed to get hurt? Will the world blow up if they do? There are some things you can only learn by doing them first-hand. I think falling and getting hurt teaches kids a lot about the world around them. Too bad lots of them never get that opportunity anymore.

    I wonder what the correlation would be between children who grow up protected from accidents/injury and young adults who engage in extreme risk-taking behaviors (often with much more serious consequences than just falling and breaking a bone)?

  69. The best safety device is a friend who won’t push you off the trampoline.

  70. I had been waiting for this topic to come up for a while – I’m friends with two familes who both have young daughters (a 3-kid stairstep in one, twins in the other.) The stairstep dad is a compulsive researcher and spent a lot of time selecting the safest trampoline on the market – net and all – and it has been a great investment. It keeps the kids active and out of the house but still in the yard for hours on end. One day I stopped by with the twins and their parents and they had a blast playing with their mom and their new friends “jumping like kangaroos.” A few days later the twins’ mom took them to their pediatrician and the event came up in conversation during their checkup. The pediatrician told my friend that in his learned opinion, any parent who allows their kid to play on a trampoline should be charged with felony child endangerment! Great, a helicopter pediatrician!

  71. I’m on the fence with this one.

    Sure, trampolines are fun, do encourage activity and all. But they are a pain in the you know what when it comes to injury. Never got one for my two, and they did all sorts of other things (and sometimes injured themselves doing them).

    There’s certain activities (for all of us) that just up the ante of risk of injury. Trampolines fall into that category. Dirt biking. Tree climbing, IF one doesn’t do it often enough to learn how. Snowmobiles. Tackle football. Horseback riding. And so on.

    Some of my best memories of childhood are those of the time I spent riding. Was it dangerous? Quite. I didn’t know it at the time, and did get hurt once or twice. But I know now I was lucky (and a pretty decent rider).

    Should kids not do this stuff? It’s not as if other stuff can’t be dangerous.

    I think the problems with these activities are two-fold.

    First, they’re often things that many people don’t do often enough to learn how to do them safely (eg the kid who visits, gets on the trampoline, and goes flying). Next, they’re just inherently more dangerous, and that’s often what makes them more fun in the first place.

    My thoughts on trampolines are the same as my thoughts on tree climbing: don’t do it unless you know what you’re doing. And, even then, unless you’re okay with taking, perhaps, a nasty fall.

    In other words, it takes some real discernment to ascertain whether this or that kid (or adult) is ‘ready’ for a particular activity…

    And even then, accidents happen all the time.

    But at least, then, the parent, coach, teacher has the consolation of knowing that they at least thought it over first.

    Quite the far cry from the way so many of us boomers were raised (remember the old saw: kids are like rubber, they’ll just bounce back??).

  72. NOT with you, here.

    Trampolines are up there with swimming pools in terms of potential for serious, lasting injury. With swimming pools, you can largely mitigate the danger (drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children, close behind car accidents), but a trampoline, even when played with properly, has a very high risk for closed-head injuries, spinal injuries, and bones broken at the growth plate, leading to deformity.

    There is no “safe way” to play on a trampoline. Not even a “reasonably safe way”. That’s like saying that it’s good to let your kids play in the middle of a major road because then they learn to dodge cars. Sure, they may, but if the make one tiny misjudgment,t he consequences are too serious. I’m all for kids playing on residential streets, riding bikes out of sight in safe neighborhoods, and walking to school. But when they ride bikes, they’d better have helmets, and ex-nay on the trampolines. There are some things kids don’t bounce back from.

  73. Oh, and my kids climb 30′ up a tree regularly, using the 3-limbs-on-the-tree-at-all-times rule. That’s WAY safer than a trampoline.

  74. Well, I’m still waiting for the answer from an orthopedic surgeon or a physical therapist. I’m all for climbing in trees, on rocks and mountains (or riding on mountain-bikes with helmets), balancing on walls (see Free range kids’ original book cover!),etc . After all, if we look at the evolutionary path in becoming homo sapiens; getting- literally- off the tree and becoming bipedal, we climbed long enough to learn it well and be careful. But when you take a close look at our physical structure, does our body look like it was made for jumping for hours on a trampoline? (Well, what do I know, maybe the early humans were holding animal skins from 4 corners and let their kids bounce on them?!?!) It certainly must do some damage to our spine even if we jump all alone on a huge trampoline.
    Well, we weren’t meant to sit on a chair for hours at a time either or to drive cars. Even if our living environment has changed, our bodies haven’t. So, let’s get these “stones-aged” bodies off these chairs and the trampolines and do stretching!

    p.s. BTW, how about ALSO teaching our children to take a break looking at clouds and tree tops…The don’t have to be be active outside all the time.

  75. I meant “PHYSICALLY active” all the time.. certainly observing the sky and the nature IS being active in different way stimulating and getting the kids developing brains all wired..

  76. The biggest issue for me is that it should be up to the parents to decide what risks they are willing to let their kids take. Who cares if you have a net or not – it is your kid and your decision. If you let other kids jump on your tramp without a net just make sure it is ok with their parents. I feel the same way about helmets and other safety measures. Yes, kids get hurt – even killed – in tragic accidents, some of which could have been prevented. But, it isn’t your kid. Do what you think is right for your own kids. We had a trampoline with no net, teenage boys rough housed on it and no one got hurt. Doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened, and yes, if someone was seriously injured I would have felt horribly. However, I don’t think tramps are as unsafe as a lot of people are making them out to be, especially if they are large enough. It is very difficult to jump toward the edge of the net, it naturally moves you toward the middle. Yes, if you do something really stupid or have people pushing each other around somebody will probably get hurt.

  77. My one issue with this article isn’t that the netting was taken off, but that multiple people were on the trampoline at the same time. That’s dangerous and I’d be surprised if the instructions that came with the trampoline didn’t say as much.

    I love trampolines, but you do have to use them safely. There’s a reason only one kid was allowed on the big trampoline in gym class when I was a kid and the entire class stood around it with arms raised waiting to get squashed by the person taking his or her turn.

  78. @ sandra– there is netting for beds… really, it’s more like a fence. In case they fall out of bed (yeah, that foot and a half to the floor is a killer)
    Trampolines scare me. I see way too many kids with broken this and broken that. No broken necks or heads so far. I won’t own one but I don’t think I’d go as far as forbidding my kids to play on someone else’s. It’s more my own personal hang-up.
    as far as the netting goes, the “falling off” injuries have been replaced by “collision” injuries. I don’t know about the broken heads and necks– never seen any from tramps.
    Just unbelted kids in cars.

  79. I have to laugh when I think of growing up with a trampoline and this was not just your ordinary trampoline. It was olympic size, that we got on sale from the Australian Institute of Sport and the only place my parents could get it to fit in the yard was over a rock garden with nothing but rocks and a lot of cacti surrounding it. None of us kids broke any bones from the fun of a trampoline that size and were often double bounced higher than the house. We did however have to pull out various prickles over the time, maybe we were just lucky or understood the importance of there was no safety net.
    I don’t have kids yet but my brothers had various broken bones from skateboard accidents and rumble and tumble with their mates when there was no chance of offering netting or cotton wool. It will be interesting to see what I am like as a parent but hope my parents casual approach is still instilled in me (and my mother was one the most highly regarded preschool teachers in the city). Enjoy reading these blogs, good for the novice mum to be.

  80. I got really hurt on a trampoline with a net when i was about 15 at my neighbors house. I was jumping with a friend who was heavier than me and when we both hit at the same time her weight sent me flying up against the net and i landed wrong or something but i just got back up and kept jumping. The next morning when i woke up i could not move with out my back spasming it was horrible my parents by the way thought i was making it up and that it wasn’t really that bad… but that’s a different issue they ended up buying that trampoline off of the neighbor when they moved but ever since that day when ever i would jump up and down to much or do anything strenuous my back will act up. So the point is that kids can get hurt even with a net on the trampoline and maybe if we hadn’t had the net we wouldn’t have been so reckless while playing I mean the neighborhood kids used to come over and we’d play cage fight in that thing….

  81. I remember a family in our neighborhood that dug a pit to fit the trampoilne into “safely” so the kids “couldnt fall and get hurt”
    odd thing is her kid slipped and his foot went through the spring and he broke his ankle…

  82. Nothing so bad but might be a blessing. However it is not excuse for trampoline safety. Look how many kids get hurt even died every year, then you will take it seriously.

  83. [...] mai ironică este că în urmă cu câteva zile citisem un articol în care o mămică povestea cum şi-a rupt copilul ei mâna dreaptă şi că acest lucru ea [...]

  84. It’s great that this turned out well. Of course, sometimes serious injury can occur, and (most) safety suggestions on trampolines are there for a good reason — but that doesn’t mean they need to be there or even that they do more good than harm. Personally, I wish that I had nets on the trampoline when I was a kid, just because the lack of nets and the horrible springs terrified me. Some of my friends (who had the trampolines) always talked about this or that injury they’d received from the springs, and their parents warned us to be careful, so I grew terrified of jumping on the trampoline despite initially loving it. Now as a young adult my house has just got a trampoline, a fancy new style without exposed springs and with a net. It has made me more confident and free, and even if the net wasn’t there I would now be assured enough of my safety that I could enjoy it. So sometimes the protection is good, sometimes it’s bad, but either way kids can learn from it like this letter describes.

  85. I wouldn’t want my kid to break his arm to learn resiliency. I think trampoline nets are a great idea. They aren’t hurting anyone. We wear bike helmets and use carseats, too. Basic safety equipment isn’t a free range issue in my opinion.

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