Summer is coming. I last wrote about swimming safety, and two more popular summer activities for kids need to be addressed: biking and jumping on trampolines.
Bike safety is nothing new to me. I grew up with a Dad who was a cycling nut, and a safety nut. When I was a kid, helmets for cyclists had not been invented yet. One day my genius brother Pat, future MIT graduate, decided to see how far he could ride with his eyes closed. He got as far as the back of a parked car. After that Dad got us all hockey helmets for riding long distances.
I grew up in a small town, and would ride to and from friend’s houses at night all summer. It was pretty safe, what with no traffic and no crime, but Dad was taking no chances. I had to ride with a head light, tail light, flashing light on the saddlebag, and reflectors front, back and sides. I also had a light that strapped to my leg that shone out front and back. I was lit up like an ambulance.
Dad was a stickler for the Rules Of The Road. We went on a lot of “bike hikes,” 25 to 50 miles each, with the Boy Scouts and as a family. We always rode on the right side of the road. We obeyed all stop signs and traffic signals. We rode single file, to stay out of the way of cars. No one ever got hurt, and we would celebrate the end of the 50 mile ride by splashing into the local river.
I had a ten-speed for distances, but it wasn’t great for riding around the neighborhood with friends and popping wheelies. So my brothers built me a “chopper” bike from junk yard parts, with a ripped-up banana seat and high handle bars. One day a pedal came off and I spilled onto the asphalt. After that, Dad trained us on better bike maintenance. We did not ride when it was wet either, after the day I had sped down a hill, hit a wet patch in a turn, and skidded on my back onto a neighbor’s lawn.
Though I looked like a real Dorkapotamus On A Bike back then, the safety issues still stand. Wear a helmet. Obey the same road rules as a car. Be visible at night. Ride a well-maintained bike. And jump into the river at the end of a good hot day.
Besides biking, trampolines are another fun summer activity for kids. However, we are seeing a lot of injuries from trampolines- broken bones, head and neck injuries, hurt ankles and knees. There are so many trampoline injuries that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently discouraged parents from having one at home.
One of my pediatric nurses thinks differently. He has five kids, and they absolutely love their trampoline. When their first trampoline was blown apart by a hurricane, they mourned its loss for months, moping about, whining that there was now “nothing to do.” This past Christmas he surprised them with a new one, and it was the best Christmas ever. Now that its warmer and the sun comes up sooner, his kids get up an extra half hour early just to get some jumping in before school.
Like bikes, trampolines are fun, but some rules need to be followed. Only one kid should be allowed on at a time. Lots of injuries happen when kids fall on each other, knock each other off, or ”double bounce.” A double bounce, where one kid is falling while another kid is jumping, can generate enough force to break the legs of the falling child.
Trampolines should be on level ground and away from trees and other obstacles. A tilted trampoline will shoot a kid off to the side and on to the ground. Obstacles offer something hard for the falling kid to get hurt on. There should not be gaps between the rubber and the frame for kids to fall through. No one is sure if netting around the trampoline saves kids from injury, but it seems like a good idea. Square trampolines may be safer than round ones because of differences in the physics of the mat.
Like we said last time about pools, not having a trampoline is safest. But like bikes, a lot of kids just have to have one. Like bikes, be sure your kids follow the rules. We in Pediatric Emergency Medicine would like a quiet summer.