ASTM F381-16: Consumer Trampolines

Father and his boys having fun jumping on the trampoline that adheres to consumer safety guidelines in ASTM F381-16.

The kangaroo was the first animal to jump on a trampoline. To promote his invention, George Nissen jumped on a trampoline alongside a kangaroo in Central Park, NYC in 1965. Nissen placed the kangaroo on one end of the trampoline, and he jumped on the other end, showing the crowd that he could make the kangaroo hop while he was also hopping on the opposing end. This invention still captures imaginations years later. ASTM F381-16: Standard Safety Specification For Components, Assembly, Use, And Labeling Of Consumer Trampolines details specifications for consumer trampolines.

Invention of the Trampoline

George Nissen, an American gymnast, invented the modern trampoline in 1936. When he was 16 years old, he visited a circus in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Nissen was inspired from aerialists who would drop from their perches up high in the big top and land with a soft bounce on the safety net below. He wondered if it would be possible for these performers to continue their act by bouncing some more instead of simply falling into the net. Nissen and his gymnastics coach, Larry Griswold, combined scrap steel and the inner tubes of a tire to create a piece of equipment. Nissen would then go on to use the contraption named a “tumbling device”  for his act in the Iowa Circus (Nissen later received a registered trademark for “Trampoline,” which came from el trampolín, the Spanish word for “diving board”). Nissen wanted to use his creation, the bouncing rig, to have the ability to leap into a backward somersault.

What Is ASTM F381?

ASTM F381-16 covers the components, the assembly, and the use of consumer trampolines. This safety specification is for trampolines used in a home environment by a single user. It applies to trampolines that consist of the following:

  1. A minimum bed size of 3300 in2 (21 300 cm2)
  2. A minimum height of 20 in (51 cm)
  3. Intended for the purpose of continuous, vertical jumping activities
  4. Intended for consumer use

ASTM F381-16 aims to reduce the demonstrated hazards associated with the use of trampolines by consumers. Trampolines that adhere to this standard are not recommended for use by children under six years of age.

The standard does not to apply to institutional trampolines or trampolines intended for use on water.

Popularity of the Trampoline

During World War II, the trampoline’s potential reached new heights. Trampolines were used to train pilots for the rigorous challenges of combat. This training device for pilots allowed them to learn how to reorient themselves to their surroundings after difficult air maneuvers. The pilots practiced pirouetting in midair on the trampolines to simulate combat conditions. This relationship with the military would later extend to the space program, as NASA used trampolines to train astronauts by mimicking the constant bouncing on zero-gravity flights.

Moreover, near the end of World War II, Nissen was introduced to a young pilot, Scott Carpenter, who had gone through the trampoline training, and later, Carpenter would become one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts. Both men were in the Navy, sharing a fraternal bond, and such they became friends. Together, they help introduce the trampoline into space training at NASA and eventually create a game known as Spaceball: two people would face off on a three-sided trampoline with a frame in the middle featuring a hole. This connection, along with Nissen’s ceaseless promotional activities, propelled trampolining into the American consciousness during the post-war years and throughout the space era. Nissen jumped at the chance to awaken the world to its exercise benefits—including cardio, strength, balance, and range of motion. He created plenty of photo ops for his invention, such as jumping on one on the flattened top of a pyramid in Egypt and bouncing with a kangaroo in Central Park.

ASTM F381-16: Standard Safety Specification For Components, Assembly, Use, And Labeling Of Consumer Trampolines is available on the ANSI Webstore.

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