How to Choose and Buy a Safer Trampoline
Want to Buy a Trampoline? Think "Safety First!"
Nearly 30 years ago I purchased my first trampoline. Living in a somewhat remote part of Idaho, I didn't have the choice of brands, quality, or anything else we have today. I got it because it was available and because I was sure it would be fun for my little daughter and myself. It was! I set it up outside my kitchen window where I could watch her jumping and trying new tricks as I was washing dishes or preparing meals. It never occurred to me that I could be inviting serious injury -- or worse -- with my new purchase. Today, I cringe whenever I see children jumping on trampolines under the conditions we had!
What Was Wrong?
What was wrong with my trampoline? It wasn't safe! I knew nothing about trampoline safety at that time. Since then, I've learned there are important things that should always be considered, both when purchasing a trampoline and when using it.
What to Look For
First, let's consider what to look for when purchasing a trampoline. Safety first should be of primary concern.
Here are some trampoline safety issues and suggestions to consider when choosing and buying a trampoline.
Welds are Important
Check the Frame and Welds
First, check the frame to make sure it is made of sturdy metal. Check the welds between the different attached pieces of the frame to make sure they are strong and smooth.
Rough welds and snags are notorious for cutting both people and pets who rub or fall against them. In addition, they will not be as strong. If you see rough spots, look for another trampoline!
There should be no rough places or air bubbles in the weld. The above weld shows some air bubbles and will not be a strong weld.
Snags can cut!
Poor Welds With Snags
Poor welds with snags are notorious for cutting children and pets (also adults)! There should be no sharp snags on either the weld or the frame. In the above photo there are at least three snags... two on the weld itself, and another on the frame.
Check Pipe Cuts
Check Frame Pipe Edges
Made sure the frame pieces have no "burrs" or rough edges where the metal pieces were cut from the original tubing in the manufacturing process. The above pipe end would almost certainly cut your fingers if you handled it.
Check the Quality Control
Make sure there are no rusty spots or tiny pieces of metal filings or shavings clinging to the frame. Either of these items indicates a lack of quality control in the manufacture of the trampoline. If there is a lack of quality control in that area, there probably will be in other parts of the trampoline as well.
Check the Fit of Frame Joints
Make sure the frame joints fit snugly together. Some trampolines have joints of different types, i.e., round, triangular, square, t-bracket, etc. Round joints are not as sturdy as those with angles such as the square joint. Joint angles make it less likely that the frame can twist or pull apart when a weight suddenly bounces against it.
Secure Joints With Screws Or Bolts
Secured Joints Are Safer
Check to see if the joints between the trampoline and enclosure are screwed or bolted together. These are much stronger and safer than joints that are only pushed together. I have seen trampoline frames and enclosures without screws or bolts securing the joints that have come apart when a jumper landed near or on them. This can cause serious injury!
Check the Spring Fit
Springs Should Fit Well
If the trampoline has springs, make sure they fit properly and snugly into the intended holes. You do not want a spring to suddenly become detached when someone is landing near it! You also want the spring holes to be smooth, not rough. (By the way, wearing leather gloves when assembling or disassembling your trampoline is always a good idea. There are often places that can pinch and injure your hands if you aren't wearing gloves while putting together or taking down your trampoline!)
Elastic Bands Instead of Springs
Elastic Bands as Springs
If the trampoline you are considering has elastic bands instead of springs, make sure they can be securely fastened and won't loosen when the trampoline is being used. (Note: Elastic bands do not hold up as long as metal springs. They stretch, over a period of time, and lose some of their original elasticity. This is especially true if you leave the trampoline up all year and there is a load of snow on it during the winter. You will need to replace elastic bands sooner than you might need to replace metal springs -- if the springs ever do need replaced.)
Spring Covers Are A Safety Item
Spring Covers Are Very Important
Make sure you have a good, padded trampoline spring cover that completely covers all of the springs. There have been many accidents resulting in broken arms or legs -- or worse -- when jumpers have accidentally landed on the springs and a leg or arm has gone between the springs. The safer spring covers are fastened to the frame and springs in such a manner that they do not come off unless they are purposely removed.
Check the Jumping Mat
Check the jumping mat to make sure there are no snags or cuts in it. Check the sewing around the edge of the mat to make sure it is intact and not coming loose. If possible, watch the mat as someone jumps on the trampoline. You want a mat that remains relatively flat when the jumper lands on it. I recently saw a new mat that was beautiful and heavier than many. I thought it was a nice improvement until I watched a man jump on it. When this heavier jumper landed, the mat gathered and puckered around his feet instead of staying relatively flat. This mat did not recover as quickly, produced a harder bounce, and was so slippery that the jumper had difficulty staying on his feet. Needless to say, a mat of this type wouldn't be a wise choice for young jumpers.
Enclosures Are Important For Safety
An Enclosure is a Must!
Make sure you purchase and use a trampoline enclosure with your trampoline! I don't think enclosures had even been invented when I got my first trampoline but we have since learned how important they are. Many of the most serious trampoline accidents -- including some resulting in deaths or paralysis -- have occurred when the jumper accidentally fell off of the trampoline or through the springs. A good trampoline enclosure, properly installed with the bottom netting attached to the mat, is designed to prevent this from happening.
Check The Enclosure For Fit And Safety
Some brands of trampolines are only sold in combination with an enclosure. Those enclosures are sure to correctly fit their trampoline. With other brands, however, you can often purchase an enclosure separately from your trampoline. If you do, make sure it fits your trampoline and that the bottom of the netting fits inside the spring cover.
Some enclosures are designed so the netting is attached along the outside of the spring cover. The jumper is much more likely to land on the springs in that case. (Spring covers are not designed to be walked or stepped on and if a jumper bounces onto it, it may not support his weight. When this happens, injury to the jumper often occurs.)
Joints Must Be Secure
Properly Install the Enclosure
Make sure the enclosure is properly installed. Some enclosures come with metal posts that merely fit into sockets in the frame. I have seen these come apart from the frame when a heavy jumper lands or falls against the enclosure near them. A good enclosure will attach to the frame and have joints with angles, plus a bolt or screw to ensure they remain securely attached to the trampoline frame.
Padded and Offset Enclosure Poles
Check The Enclosure Poles
I have seen several styles of enclosures and poles. Regardless of the style you choose, it should be well padded. Most enclosure poles have foam "sleeves" that the installer places around the metal pole. Do not omit installing the foam sleeves. They are another important safety precaution. If the jumper accidentally loses his/her balance and hits an enclosure support pole, you don't want them to be hitting a piece of steel!
Some enclosure poles are also offset from the netting at the bottom of the enclosure. (See above.) In this design, the netting is attached to the mat where it attaches to the springs at the bottom and to the top of the poles at the top. This leaves a several inch gap between the netting on the sides and the poles that support the netting. This design is supposed to reduce the possibility of a jumper directly striking a pole if they rebound against the netting.
Enclosure Should Be Fully Secured To The Trampoline
A Secure Netting Attachment Is Important
Make sure the enclosure netting is securely attached to the trampoline. Many enclosures come with a rope that you use to "sew" the netting to the frame. If yours is that kind, make sure you "sew" it exactly as the instructions are given in the owner's manual. Do not leave gaps in the sewing. It doesn't take much of a space for a child, especially a smaller one, to think they can stick an arm or leg through it -- and, too often, their head -- with almost always disastrous results! There should not be any space large enough for a child to attempt to crawl through it or put their head, arm, or leg through it.
One Type Of Enclosure/Mat Fastening
Of the trampoline enclosures I've seen, those that appear to be safer are the ones that come with the enclosure netting attached to the trampoline mat at the factory. On these there is a "buttonhole" type of opening in the bottom of the netting. The metal D-ring that is attached to the mat for each spring attachment goes through these "buttonholes." Then, the trampoline springs are attached to the D-rings so the enclosure netting is actually attached to the mat at each spring. I've seen two or three of that kind. Some are quite smooth along the attached edge and some seem to have little "puckers." The smoother ones are better.
Enclosure Netting Should Attach To The Frame
Attachment Of The Enclosure Netting To The Top Frame
The enclosure netting should be securely attached to the enclosure frame at the top. Some enclosures only have straight poles and some have "arches" for their pole design. Regardless of the design, the enclosures are attached to the top of the poles by straps with buckles or velcro fasteners. Make sure you attach the straps according to the directions in the owner's manual. Do not tighten them so much they will rip if a heavy person falls against the netting at that point.
It is a very wise investment to also purchase a "tie-down" kit when you purchase your trampoline. (You can construct your own, however, if you are a handyman.) In the event there is a strong wind, a trampoline that is not securely staked to the ground may very possibly be blown about and damaged. About a year ago there was a local TV newscast showing a very heavy, unsecured trampoline that had been picked up by the wind and slammed against a building, resulting in major damage to the trampoline. Follow the instructions in the owner's manual for securing your trampoline. Make sure it is tied down in at least three or four places, not just two.
Keep Your Family's Safety In Mind When Purchasing
When purchasing your trampoline, keep all of these important safety issues in mind. If you order a trampoline through an online outlet, check the stated features to see if they match your needs. Incidentally, indoor trampolines, such as those found in gyms, are made to meet different needs and user abilities than those made for home use in the buyer's yard. Know which kind meets your needs and desires and purchase accordingly. Outdoor, home trampolines, are designed for recreation and those users not as skilled as the gymnasts, cheerleaders, and others who frequently use indoor trampolines. Due to the perceived added skill level of those using indoor trampolines, they are manufactured to have more bounce than the home types.
Remember...children and trampolines, youth and trampolines, and gymnasts and trampolines all go together like peas in a pod. Each group, however, has unique needs and the trampolines purchased for them should be chosen accordingly.
Trampolines are great for backyard fun. Jumping on a trampoline is wonderful exercise. Please help your loved ones have a safer and more enjoyable experience by buying the safest trampoline you can find and then by following all trampoline safety rules.