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This is ridiculous

book freak
I recently watched a story on my local newscast addressing the dangers of trampolines. That’s right – trampolines, long the joy of children everywhere, are now considered too dangerous to be used by today’s youth. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that kids and teens should never use trampolines at home or even in routine gym classes.

Now wait just a minute. Isn’t this the same American Academy of Pediatrics that’s been so very vocal about the epidemic of childhood obesity? Haven’t they been advocating that children and teens put down the video game controller, turn off the TV, log off the Internet and go outside for some vigorous physical activity?

Let’s face it: ALL physical activity carries risks. And childhood has never been without them anyway. Simply being born is itself dangerous, after all. And if you’re over thirty-five or forty, chances are you remember doing all sorts of things as a kid that didn’t even raise eyebrows back then, but would be considered unacceptable risks in today’s overprotective world. Things like riding bikes without a helmet, climbing trees, jumping off a rope swing into a swimming hole or pond (a favorite of my own rural childhood), rollerskating on the sidewalk, playing dodgeball (in gym class, no less, and without any sort of safety equipment) and yes, even jumping on trampolines.

I remember trampolines fondly. My next-door neighbors had one in their backyard. It wasn’t one of those slick, store-bought jobs with padded edges and safety nets, either. This was a crude, homemade unit constructed by digging a shallow oval pit, surrounding it with a foot-high wooden enclosure topped by a foot-wide metal beam running all round its circumference, painting the whole thing white and then installing thick metal springs all the way around with a trampoline bed made of green, rubberized canvas. We simply stepped up onto the edge and then jumped onto the canvas, ready to bounce to our hearts’ content. This trampoline was large enough to accommodate two teenagers or three younger kids. One of our favorite games was the “seat-drop” contest, in which two of us would get onto the trampoline together and do seat-drops with no bounce between – simply feet-seat-feet-seat – for as long as we could. The first one to tire or miss a beat lost the contest. We also practiced forward and backward flips (only one allowed on the “tramp” at a time for those) and other tricks. A warm summer day would find up to a dozen or more kids of all ages in my neighbors’ backyard, all taking turns on the trampoline. Standing on the grass in our bare feet, without a mat in sight. It was glorious!

Now, I was definitely not the most athletic kid around. In fact, I was probably one of the clumsiest. Always picked last for teams, I abhorred gym class and was absolutely no good at sports. Except for one thing: that particular gym unit each year where we got to use gymnastics equipment, and even then, I found the uneven bars, the pommel horse and the vaulting box daunting. But when it came to the trampoline – that big white elastic square with padding all around and standing chest-high to many of us – I was finally in my element. Most of my classmates did not have access to a trampoline outside of these two or three short weeks, and had to work to master even the most basic of moves. But I could execute even double flips with an ease born of long practice, and I eagerly looked forward each year to the one time in gym class when I morphed, however briefly, from the klutziest student to one of the most graceful. Even my gym teacher was stumped by my transformation, until one year I finally explained my secret to her.

Of course, these days, people are so worried about protecting children from every childhood bump and scrape that it’s a wonder we don’t just pack them in Styrofoam and feed them strained peas until they’re eighteen. Good grief, here we are, worried about plus-size children who would rather spend all summer in the living room with the latest games for Playstation than take a walk around the block, and we’re complaining about the dangers of trampolines, skateboards, bicycles, rollerblades and swimming pools. Does anyone see the irony here?

In all the years my neighbors had their trampoline, I think there were only two injuries – a sprained ankle suffered when one boy stepped off onto the ground wrong and twisted his foot, and a swollen big toe on yours truly when I stepped off the trampoline and onto a yellowjacket that was sunning itself on the edge. Either of the above could have happened as a result of many other activities. Meanwhile, my friends and I were outdoors and engaging in healthy physical activity rather than inside eating chips and playing video games. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating against things like bike helmets and protective gear for rollerblading and skateboarding, nor do I believe that parents should leave their kids unsupervised while engaging in certain activities. It’s a good idea to have someone keep an eye on them when they’re on a trampoline in the same way that it’s a good idea to have someone watching out for them while they’re in a swimming pool. But I don’t think it’s necessary to forbid kids to engage in an activity at all just because it’s possible that they could get hurt doing it. Otherwise, they shouldn’t even be allowed to get out of bed in the morning.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 28th, 2013 11:59 pm (UTC)
Trampolines scare the crap outta me.
Apr. 29th, 2013 12:32 am (UTC)
I'm sorry to hear that. I always loved them. Haven't been on one in years, but would like to try one again some day. I wonder if I can still do a flip?
Apr. 29th, 2013 12:02 am (UTC)
While I agree with you in principle here, I'm going to take issue about a couple of things.

1) Bike helmets -- yeah, we didn't wear them when we were growing up. They were not widely available, clunky and expensive when they were, and generally considered only suitable for specialists. Now they're easy to find, lightweight, and inexpensive -- and the benefits of wearing one are very similar to the benefits of wearing seatbelts in the car. (We didn't used to do that either, if you recall.) And what the hell does it hurt to wear it?

2) Dodgeball should be banned from the schools, period. It's never been anything but an excuse for the class bullies to try to deliberately hurt those who are smaller, weaker, and/or outcast. If you don't remember the "joys" of having the biggest, strongest boys in the class deliberately aiming the ball at your face, you may not remember your childhood as well as you think.

Trampolines... we had them in gym class, but no one was ever allowed to use one without spotters, and I would argue that the same reasoning applies to using one at a friend's house. Don't get rid of them, just forghodsake apply some common sense.
Apr. 29th, 2013 12:32 am (UTC)
I'm not exactly sure what you're taking issue with in #1, given that I expressly wrote in my post the following:

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating against things like bike helmets and protective gear for rollerblading and skateboarding, nor do I believe that parents should leave their kids unsupervised while engaging in certain activities. It’s a good idea to have someone keep an eye on them when they’re on a trampoline in the same way that it’s a good idea to have someone watching out for them while they’re in a swimming pool.

As for dodgeball, I was the smallest and least athletic kid in my gym glass, and I was also one of the five most likely kids in the entire school to get the "kick me" sign taped to their back or be beat up and have my lunch money stolen on any given day. Yet I didn't really take a whole lot of abuse during dodgeball; certainly no more than any other kid. There are far worse things going on in school that should be curbed. Dodgeball is survivable, especially when the other things are mitigated. I'm not saying a world without dodgeball would be any worse than one with it, but I do have a bit of an issue with the assumption that I must not know anything about being bullied when I was in fact bullied from kindergarten all the way into junior high, and even experienced some of this from the teachers themselves.

Apr. 29th, 2013 12:46 am (UTC)
When my daughter was small we lived in a place where there were a lot of houses with shared yards. One yard had a trampoline. All the kids played on it. I once found my daughter trying to jump on it while wearing roller-blades. She was about 5. We did not let her do that. I pointed out she would wreck the tramp, and probably also break her ankle. I also did not let her on when there were no big kids or adults around.

My girl also liked to jump out of trees, and ride her bike with her eyes shut! We did not let her do that last one either.

We managed to get her to age 15 without serious injury. (She has had some scrapes and falls, and she once got her foot stuck in a storm drain.

I agree with you that childhood is the time for swimming, sledding, biking, skating... You have to learn what your own body can do, just like any other young animal. Sometimes that process leads to injury. We should take sensible precautions-- but let kids do what they feel they can do. Most can do quite a lot.

As for dodgeball-- I never liked it. But I am not much good with balls. Games like that are places to teach kindness and fair play.
Apr. 29th, 2013 07:14 am (UTC)
Well, there is a risk of injury associated with trampolines which is the reason for the new design that tries to keep it fun while reducing risk of injury.

I'm personally agnostic on trampolines, never having had access to one growing up.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


book freak
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