Trampolines are a backyard staple for many families, encouraging kids to get active outdoors and have hours of fun.
But they're also a very common source of injuries.
And while some of those injuries are not the fault of the trampoline (double backflip anyone?), our reviews have found that most of the tested trampolines failed to meet the Australian safety standard.
Here's what you can do to find a good one and use it safely.
- 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. Other springless models, such as the Kmart and Lifespan models in our latest test, use wide rubber bands instead of metal springs, but are otherwise built much like a traditional trampoline, so they do need padding over the rubber bands.
- Unfortunately, we've found in our trampoline reviews over the years that although most models came with safety padding, not all pass 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.
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.
Our reviews show that many trampolines have safety hazards, including padding that isn't durable enough, head entrapment hazards, and enclosures that don't stand up to rough treatment, but these hazards can often be avoided by sensible use.
The bottom line: don't rely on the trampoline to do all the safety work for you. Do your part by playing safely.
- Supervise children while they're using the trampoline. Young kids especially (under six) should only use trampolines under close supervision.
- 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.
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.
There's a common attitude that trampolines always have been and always will be inherently risky – that kids sometimes get hurt and that's just how it is.
We don't agree.
Many games and sports come with some risk, and kids are pretty good at collecting scrapes and bumps as they play – that's part of life.
But there's no reason to accept unsafe products, especially when standards exist to define good, safe design, and when products exist that meet those standards.
Trampolines are a great way to exercise; not just fun, but effective too.
A 1980 study by NASA showed that rebounding on a trampoline is an excellent and efficient way to gain fitness as well as muscle and bone strength, more so than running on a treadmill.
Trampolining uses a wide range of leg and core muscles, and is good for improving coordination.
Trampolining uses a wide range of leg and core muscles, and is good for improving coordination
And the impact on your joints is relatively low, due to the mat absorbing some of the impact each time you land from a bounce, so it may be a better exercise option for people with bad knees than other forms of exercise such as running.
Even so, if you're planning to use the trampoline for exercise, start slow and build your way up to more intensive workouts over time.
There are plenty of video guides online that show a range of exercises to try, such as squats, twists, single-leg bounces, jumping jacks and more.
Attempting a backflip?
One of the more popular challenges is learning to do a backflip. This is a difficult move and if you're going to learn it, you should work your way up to it in stages: again, there are many guides online to help you.
A word of safety advice: some guides suggest you should have a partner to assist and advise you, which is definitely a good idea, but we don't recommend that they stay on the mat with you while you're attempting the moves. They should watch from outside the trampoline at that point.
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.
Several manufacturers we've spoken to do support the standard, and some even take part in the standards committee.
We strongly believe that the Australian standard for trampolines should be made mandatory
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.
RELATED: No child should be put in hospital because of dangerous products, whether it's trampolines, button batteries or anything else. Sign our petition calling for the government to make it illegal to sell unsafe products.
If you or a household member is seriously injured while using your trampoline, then your health insurance policy may come into play, especially if you need an ambulance or ongoing treatment.
But what if the injured person is a visitor?
And what happens if strong winds hit your area and blow your trampoline into the neighbour's yard, causing injury or damage? (It can happen!)
A typical 10-foot round trampoline, such as the ones in our review, costs anywhere from under $200 to about $2000. Commonly the price falls into the $400–$700 range.
We've found that price isn't necessarily an indicator of quality. Most trampolines fail one or another of our safety and durability tests, whether they are cheap or more expensive models. Some cheap trampolines turn out to be solidly made, but may have other safety issues such as head entrapment hazards, while some more expensive models can fail structural durability tests.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.