A trampoline is a device which contains a strong piece of fabric which is pulled taut (or tight) over a steel frame, and uses coiled springs to provide a bouncing effect. A person using the trampoline usually jumps on the fabric, and the springs propel him/her high into the air. It is to be noted that the fabric used has no elasticity whatsoever, but it is the coiled springs which provide the bounce effect to the person who jumps on it.
The trampoline has an interesting historical background. Circus folklore states that the trampoline was built by an artiste called Du Trampolin. Apparently, he saw the usefulness of taking the trapeze safety net and using it as a device for propelling people. He experimented with it, and finally devised the trampoline device. This device is often used in circus performances, where it is covered by bedclothes, and acrobats use it in the 'bouncing bed' routines. Though, there is no documentary evidence to support this particular circus folklore.
A trampoline-like device is also used by the Inuits to toss each other into the air. They use walrus skin for that purpose. A similar game is also found in England, where people use blankets to toss people in the air.
Around 1934, George Nissen and Larry Griswold watched trapeze artistes using a tight net to add to their performance in a circus. George Nissen was a gymnast and diver, while Larry Griswold was a tumbler in the gymnastics team in the University of Iowa in the US. They got together and experimented with a piece of canvas cloth, and inserted grommets along each side of the cloth, and attached it to an angled iron frame using coiled springs. George Nissen had heard the Spanish word 'trampolin', which means 'diving board' during a tour to Mexico. Based on that name, he decided to call his apparatus a 'trampoline'. They trademarked the name, and in 1942 formed the Griswold-Nissen Trampoline & Tumbling Company. The company began to make and sell trampolines on a commercial basis.
The trampoline has found several uses in the most unusual places. It was used by the United States Navy Flight School during World War II, for training pilots and navigators in spatial orientation, and later on to train pilots for various body positions in flight. It has also become a major competitive sport. Since the year 2000, it has also become an Olympic sport. Modern competitive trampolines allow an athlete to bounce quite high, as far as ten meters in the air while performing somersaults and twists. It is a part of gymnastics and synchronized trampoline jumping, and is quite appreciated by many players and viewers alike.
Trampolines are also used as part of exercise and training routines for several sports such as skiing and diving. Apart from that, they are also specially built for home use. Many homes have a smaller version of the trampoline kept in their yards for children to jump on. They come in different shapes―circular, octagonal, square, and so on.
Home trampolines have, however, come under a lot of criticism for being unsafe. Children jumping on them often end up landing elsewhere and hurting themselves. Children may also try doing somersaults and end up falling on their heads and twisting their necks―which can even paralyze or kill them. Therefore, while installing a trampoline in your backyard, it is advised that parents must be present to supervise their children when they are playing on it.
One can also sink a trampoline into a bed and cover, and pad the frame on the sides to make it safer for children.