Anyone growing up in the 80s (or earlier) who ran rampant around the neighborhood can easily close his eyes and picture either a back yard swing set or the local playground. Metal slides baking in the sun, monkey bars with oxidation handprints down the center, dirt ruts under the chain and rubber swings — and if you were really lucky, a trampoline.
Even though we survived each of those supposed “death traps” and today’s playgrounds are littered with recycled rubber mulch, padded edges and plastic everything, the trampoline still remains largely unchanged. Sure, the safety netting can be considered but it only prevents falling off the trampoline.
According to a recent statement on trampoline safety by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the safety features and padding modifications on a trampoline “do not significantly decrease the risk of injury,” says sports pediatrician Michele LaBotz.
So, is this where engineering simulation can step in and make the trampoline safe enough for the AAP? Perhaps. First, someone needs to find the evolutionary leap that usually accompanies the redefinition of a product. Playground equipment in general took that leap by changing materials and examining child interaction with the individual pieces. Trampolines are ripe for a reinvention. Basically the same design of the transfer of potential and kinetic energy utilizing the coiled springs attached to a mat of tightly stretched fabric has been in place since the inception of the popular trampoline in the 1930s. The modern “bouncy castles” or closed inflatable trampolines have started the evolution, but they aren’t practical for the everyday consumer.
I actually started looking into this subject because my in-laws conspired to have a trampoline moved from an aunt’s home in Ohio to my mother-in-law’s backyard. To their credit, they did buy and set up the child safety netting. However, with three children, the bouncing can get a little chaotic. I’m not against trampolines, but I also wouldn’t be against some additional safety measures.
So dear reader, share your idea for reinventing the evolutionary path of the trampoline.
- Should the design be changed?
- Is a metal frame the only material strong enough to withstand the constant exchange of energy, or could lighter materials such as composites be used and padded in a way that metal frames can’t?
- Can the springs be placed in a configuration outside of the play area to decrease the chances of landing on a spring?
Let us know your thoughts and maybe I can make my kids a little safer to offset the disadvantage of having a trampoline-safety-researching nerd for a dad.