Trampolines can be a great way for kids to have fun, exercise and develop coordination, but unfortunately they're also a common source of injuries.
In our most recent review of eight round net-style trampolines, seven failed to meet the Australian safety standard.
We believe trampoline manufacturers should follow the Australian safety standard to protect children from injuries, most commonly fractures, sprains, cuts and concussions.
Most injuries happen when children fall off or hit the side of the trampoline, but there are also risks for young children who can wander underneath and get hit when another child bounces above.
Trampolines need regular inspection and maintenance, and children under six should always be supervised by an adult.
How to choose a safe trampoline
- The metal frame and springs should be padded to avoid injuries should a child fall and hit them.
- The safety pads should be a contrasting colour to the mat of the trampoline – this helps define the edge of the mat more clearly.
- The trampoline should meet the current Australian trampoline standard AS 4989:2015, but there's no easy way for the average buyer to tell, other than looking for a statement of compliance to the standard.
- Springless models such as those from Springfree and Vuly have a soft-edge design, where the bounce comes from mechanisms such as fibreglass rods or steel leaf springs beneath the level of the jumping mat, so they don't need a padded edge like the traditional spring models.
- Unfortunately we found in our 2017 trampoline review that although most of the models came with safety padding, not all passed the safety tests.
- A netted enclosure helps prevent falls from the trampoline and we strongly recommend you only use trampolines that have one.
- It shouldn't be suspended from unpadded rigid or stiff poles, as this introduces another hard object that could pose a risk to a child.
- A ladder can be used to help kids get on and off a trampoline safely, but it should be removed when the trampoline is not in use.
- If a child is unable to get up there alone, they may not be at the right developmental stage to use a trampoline at all.
- Instructions need to be clear, comprehensive and complete with good text and pictures. They should specify how to assemble the trampoline, maintain it and use it safely.
Video: Trampolines fail safety test
Trampoline assembly and maintenance
First, do you actually have the right space for a trampoline? It should be placed on a level surface that's free of hazards such as furniture, and the area around the trampoline should be covered in soft, impact-absorbing material. Lawn, pine bark, wood chips or sand are good. Not paving or concrete – there's too much risk of injury from falling onto a hard surface. You need two metres' clearance on all sides and five metres overhead.
- Assembling a trampoline isn't often an easy job – instructions can be complicated. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer for more detailed instructions and guidance.
- Our testers recommend that you fully read the instructions first, so you don't miss a key step. Be patient and methodical.
- You'll probably need two people at least to put the trampoline parts together.
- You can also check the manufacturer's website for more timely safety advice or additional guidance.
- Some manufacturers also offer an installation service for an extra fee, which may be worth considering.
- Be careful – trampoline springs contain stored energy and some parts may be heavy and awkward to move and use, so follow safety instructions (and common sense).
- Check the trampoline regularly for tears, worn areas and bending in the bed, frame and safety enclosure. Before using, check that the area around and under the trampoline is free from obstacles. Inspect the frame and springs regularly for surface rust, corrosion and deterioration.
- Secure trampoline legs to the ground. This will increase stability and prevent unsafe relocation of the trampoline.
- In-ground installation, where the mat is at ground level, is an option to reduce fall heights and possible injury. But you'll need to bear in mind that this will involve quite a lot of preparation (for example, pit drainage is essential).
- Rotate the safety padding periodically to minimise degradation at the enclosure entrance and sun exposure if some parts are protected by shade during the day. This will increase the length of time before the padding needs to be replaced.
Using a trampoline safely
- Supervise children while they're using the trampoline.
- A safety enclosure can help prevent falls but it's no substitute for good safety padding and a sturdy frame, or for sensible use of the trampoline.
- Even with an enclosure in place, kids still need to play safely on the trampoline and under adult supervision.
- Don't let kids bounce against the netting on purpose.
- One child at a time on the trampoline. Accidents are more likely to occur when more than one child is playing on the trampoline.
- Large trampolines are not recommended for kids under six.
- Clear safety rules such as "one at a time", "bare feet only", and "do not use when wet" are good boundaries to set early on.
- Jump only in the middle of the trampoline and don't jump off the trampoline when finished.
- To control bounce, teach your child to focus their eyes on the trampoline.
- If you have an older trampoline, consider getting it retrofitted with a frame padding system that's compliant with the current standard. Or replace the old trampoline completely.
Are trampolines really that dangerous?
More than 3000 trampoline-related injuries are reported in Australia every year. These injuries – mostly on children – range from cuts and bruises to more serious sprains and fractures. And at least one death has been reported; in 2009, a five-year-old boy died when he became tangled in a clothesline that hung above the trampoline.
Trampolines are the second biggest cause of hospital-treated injuries on play equipment, just behind monkey bars. Children aged five to nine are the most frequently injured, though there's also an alarming number of injuries to children aged under five.
Children can fall off or hit the side of the trampoline, bounce into one another or be injured by a double bounce. Younger kids are at risk if they wander underneath and get hit when someone bounces above them.
A 2007 baseline study of consumer product-related injuries conducted by ACCESS Economics estimated that there were 9006 accidents involving trampolines that year in Australia, with 11% of them requiring hospitalisation.
In NSW, Westmead Children's Hospital reported 86 trampoline-related injuries in 2005 which almost doubled to 153 injuries in 2008. In 2015, Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital reported that admissions for trampoline injuries had nearly tripled over the past 10 years, and other states also reported an increase in these injuries. Some of that increased number can probably be attributed to the appearance of trampoline parks, but backyard trampolines are still a major cause of injuries.
It may be that since most trampolines now have safety padding and enclosures, parents and children have become more complacent about safety. Injuries from collisions are common when several children play at the same time on the trampoline; head injuries in particular are all too common in this situation. And as our tests show, while an enclosure is an essential safety feature, it doesn't absolutely guarantee safety: a child can still hit the frame edge or enclosure pole. They can even fall through the enclosure, such as when the opening is left unzipped, or if the enclosure is faulty or has weakened with age in the sun.
The Australian standard
The current Australian standard for trampolines, AS 4989:2015, is only voluntary. So while we expect manufacturers to strive to meet this standard, they're not required by law to do so. Some manufacturers we've spoken to, including Springfree, Vuly and Action Sports, are firm supporters of the standard and some even take part in the standards committee.
The standard specifies performance tests for the padding or soft-edge system, to ensure it will properly protect a child's head in the event of a fall or impact, as well as requirements for instructions, labels and safety warnings. It also requires the trampoline to have a safety enclosure (net) and includes tests to check that the enclosure is free from strangulation hazards, limb entrapments and other hazards, and that the frame and enclosure are structurally safe and sound.
We strongly believe that the Australian standard for trampolines should be made mandatory. This will help weed out the more dangerous and flimsy trampolines from the market.