Can trampolines hurt your spine?

By Dr Guy Ashburner | July 16, 2016

Can trampolines hurt your spine?

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that trampolines should not be used by any child except for training programs and certain sports – and only then when supervised by a trained adult. Some of the fun and benefits listed by trampoline enthusiasts may make trampolines and rebounders rather an enticing form of play and therapy for children and adults. But, as with everything that goes up, there has to be a down…

While there’s a freedom to jumping on a trampoline, you always have to feel in relative control of the movement. Stop if at any time you feel out of control. Anyone who has been on a trampoline and copped the rebound effect when landing as someone is springing will testify to the whiplash effects that can go through your entire body. Trampoline jumping poses a risk of injury for both children and adults.

RISK SCENARIOS

If you are healthy and have no history of back pain, your risk of injury during trampolineing and rebounding is reduced but people with certain health conditions such sciatica, pinched nerves, degenerative disk disease, osteoporosis or fractures should be cautious and consult their health-care provider before starting a new exercise routine. The neck is often affected although whiplash can occur anywhere in the body when the forces are so quick and strong that they jar and strain the joint capsules. Repetitive compression of the spine by bouncing up and down on a trampoline can lead to back pain and may aggravate existing back pain due to the increase in disc pressures and these joints are overstretched causing injury, inflammation and spasm of surrounding soft tissues. Discs are the compressible pads between the vertebrae in your spinal column. If you have a previous back problem, you are more likely to worsen the injury plus those who struggle with musculoskeletal tension and muscle imbalance due to poor postural habits are more prone to injury from trampolines due to the fact that their tissues are unable to cope with the uncontrolled forces and momentum on their bodies.

REDUCE RISK

By having only one person jumping at a time you are able to anticipate the rebound. Falling off a trampoline or using a trampoline incorrectly can result in strains, sprains, dislocations fractures and other injuries, including potentially serious head and neck injuries. Severe injuries happen due to landing awkwardly or falling off. They happen due to the fact that the jumper has jumped too high and cannot predict or prepare for their landing. Ensure you land with your knees slightly bent which will enable the knees to better adapt to the changes in force than if they were locked thus reducing the probability of a knee injury.

Don’t attempt complicated flips unless you are a trained gymnast. These injuries can be seriously reduced if there is only one person on the trampoline.

Commercial trampoline centres should adhere to a strict code of ethics and behaviour to focus on the avoidance of somersaults and flips. If they get one flip wrong you may land on your head, neck or shoulders which could cause a significant whiplash effect. Osteopaths are not so worried about the short-term implications but rather the long-term effects on the integrity of their joints and ligaments for the future.

CONCLUSION

As an osteopath who focuses on back and neck injuries as well as sports injuries, I see trampoline injuries in adults and children on a regular basis related to trampoline overuse, collisions and falls. As with any exercise I would always encourage safety first through responsible supervision in the appropriate environment to gain the most benefit and reduce the probability of injury. We can’t wrap our kids in cotton wool and we don’t want to stop kids from being kids, we simply want to minimise the risks associated with the improper usage of a trampoline.


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