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Trampolining Delight or Danger

Medico Legal

Trampolining is very attractive activity that appeals to a wide age group from three to four year old children to those almost in their sixties. What is it that is so attractive?

For young children who most likely spent quite a bit of time jumping up and down on their beds indulging in attractive physical sensations with very little danger apart from the annoyance of their parents.

I am sure that is the ability for most active people to very easily jump up and down to heights that they could never reach naturally. One can also safely land on one’s knees, seat, back or front. It is also common in competitive trampolining to perform twists to or from these landing and also somersaults with or without twists from them in addition to single and double front or back single and double somersaults from feet with up to three twists.

Trampolines are manufactured in rectangular and circular format and in sizes from twelve feet by nine feet to seventeen by ten feet for the top level competitive trampolines. The circular trampolines now very popular for garden trampolines range from eight feet to twelve normally with a safety net surrounding them above bed height. The net around them is to prevent performers usually children from falling off. The net replaces the spotters normally part of the arrangements for the larger school, or leisure centre trampolines.

The large competitive trampolines are usually of the folding variety and are, when folded, mounted on roller stands so that they can be pushed around gymnasia or on hard outdoor surfaces. The large trampolines need four to six people to raise them from the floor since they weight about 15 cwt The garden trampolines are not usually on wheels but are of much lighter construction and can be moved around easily by a couple of adults. The large trampolines are used for pleasure, exercise and fitness, developing visual awareness and indulging in sensations not normally easily available elsewhere. They are the equivalent of the seven league boots commonly mentioned in fairy stories.

As a sport, trampoline competitions arrived in Britain from America in the late fifties and the first World Championships were held in the Albert Hall in 1964. Trampolining however was not included in the Olympic Games until the 2000 Games in Melbourne, Australia In competitive trampolining, the centre point of the bed is marked with a cross and a number of sections to aid the judges when determining where in relation to the centre of the bed the competitor is landing travelling away from the cross is gets a lower performance mark than staying close to when landing.

The normal set up in addition to the trampoline is the use of crash mats mounted on frames at the end of the trampolines and on the floor around them. The mats are usually eight to ten feet long and 6 inches thick and will absorb heavy or uneven landings and resist rebound. There are also push in mats which are about six feet by four feet by about three inches thick and quite light. They are used to push in under performers for their landings and are normally operated

Another important difference between garden and competitive trampolining is that for competitive trampoline training and performance the performers should be trained only by coaches trained and examined by the sport’s governing body, the British Gymnastics Association or it’s forerunner The British Trampoline Federation. This should ensure that those taking part are not unwittingly engaging in dangerous practices. Unfortunately, sometimes accidents are caused by the incorrect instructions or lack of proper supervision by the coach or person in charge of the session.

In addition to properly qualified coaches running the instruction sessions, there should be at least four spotters, one at each end and two along each side. Their role is to pay close attention to the performer and to move quickly to where the performers is likely to come off the trampoline and push them back in towards the bed. However if the performer is coming over the side very rapidly or at a height the advice is to get out of the way in case two people are injured.

Qualified coaches are also trained in hand supporting skills for teaching somersaults and twisting somersaults to learners using, officially approved methods. Sometimes there is a need for two supporters especially for front and back somersaults. For front somersaults, the supporters hold one hand each of the hands of the performer who holds them out forwards and slightly sideways. The supporters then place their other hands on the performers shoulder to discourage them from dropping their shoulders down to start the somersault or they reach over the performers shoulders to grasp their clothing behind the buttocks to help them raise them backwards and up to start the rotation. For backward somersaults the performers raise their hands forwards and upwards to shoulder height with the palms facing forwards. The supporters then place their hands behind the performers buttocks so that they can push their hips forwards and upwards to start the backward rotation

They keep their hands in contact with the buttocks until the performer has passed the vertical and then transfer their hands to their shoulders help them to land upright. Supporters can also help with the learning of twisting somersaults. For somersaults with more rotation such as one and three quarter front somersaults and double back somersaults, the use of the belt supported by ropes held up with pulleys is the safest method.

Thus it makes the learning of some very complicated moves such as double front and back somersaults with half up to three twists possible. So the ordinary teenager can do things safely with skilled teaching that were only possible in the past to circus performers which is quite safe and exhilarating. ?

Robin C Walker December 2014