Are trampolines worth the risk?
Girl on the trampoline

There were an estimated 92,000 visits to emergency rooms following trampoline accidents in 2010. While trampoline mishaps are a staple of funny home video programs, trampoline parks are turning out to be anything but a laugh.

The dangers of trampoline parks

The foam pits at trampoline parks surround the trampolines and are filled with foam cubes meant to cushion any falls. Christina Flygare’s family was visiting a trampoline park for her daughter’s birthday party. They had been at the facility for about 15 minutes when her teenage son jumped into the foam pit and broke his neck.

“As a parent, you believe there is some basic level of safety these facilities have to meet — but that is not the case,” says Flygare. “The risk of injury is much higher than most parents anticipate. If I had known what I know now, I never would have taken my family to [the trampoline park].”

Jump at your own risk

“[Trampoline parks are] a completely unregulated industry, and the design and infrastructure of these facilities puts jumpers at risk,” says Don McPherson, an internationally recognized expert in trampoline safety and gymnastics training using trampolines. “I’ve seen foam pits that are too shallow and improperly built. As these trampoline parks have shown, the participants are not trained or instructed on how to enter a foam pit.”

Attorney Sim Osborn has represented a number of families in cases against the trampoline park Sky High Sports. “We have found lapses in safety and maintenance procedures that dramatically increase the risk of serious injury, especially to children.”

Safety tips every parent should know >>

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that no children play on trampolines and that trampolines should only be used for training programs and certain sports, and then only under the supervision of a trained adult.

But they’re allowed to do it…

Trampoline gymnastics made its debut at the 2000 Olympic Games. As the London Olympics get underway, there will undoubtedly be a renewed interest in the sport — and plenty of trampoline injuries as well. You wouldn’t just let your child leap onto the uneven bars or balance beam without a spotter and proper training, would you? Trampolines carry the same risks, if not even greater dangers.

Signs your child may have a concussion >>

Go solo or not at all

Trampolines are a huge temptation — that surreal experience of flying through the air and not knowing which direction you might go next is an adrenaline rush. But even backyard trampolines have been the subject of many recalls for things like faulty netting which leads to serious falls and injuries.

"There should be no more than one person on a trampoline at a time, including entering and exiting a trampoline,” says McPherson. In fact, 83 percent of trampoline injuries occur when multiple children jump at the same time, a common practice at trampoline parks.

“There is frequent overcrowding at these parks, and they allow jumpers to invade each other’s space with utter disregard to the weight of each participant," says McPherson. “No one should do somersaults without proper training and supervision, but unsupervised flips are common practice at these facilities. Doing so can lead to catastrophic injuries, paralysis and death.”

The bad and the ugly

Failing equipment, poor supervision and overcrowding are the main complaints of safety experts and parents regarding trampoline parks. These issues have led to broken bones, fractures and head injuries when jumpers collide with one another, jump between trampolines, fall on the trampoline springs or frame, injure themselves when attempting stunts or somersaults or fall off of the trampoline.

“Trampolines and other trampoline rebound devices have to be used under direct supervision and can never be considered a ‘toy,’” McPherson explains. “The position of the gymnastics community is that these facilities are not ‘gymnastics’ and gymnastics does not condone or approve the use of trampolines in this fashion.“

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Comments on "Trampoline parks: Jump for joy? Not so much"

Jason Dewitt August 05, 2013 | 9:03 AM

"Missing her brother" - I'm so sorry for you and your brother!! I heard about this accident and that is the only death related to trampoline parks on record. So unfortunate! There should be safety regulations at all parks related to referees, design standards, monitoring of foam pits. Still the reality is a person is more likely to get hurt playing football or basketball. I've done a lot of research. These trampoline places have a huge volume of jumpers and the % of people who get hurt is not nearly as high as other sports. I worry about teenage kids trying to do stunts that are way too crazy and jumping with little kids and that's another thing that should be avoided. Still if the parks are vigilant about the things I mentioned above they're actually pretty safe.

Jeff March 10, 2013 | 8:17 AM

Good advice from all. I guess I will keep my kids at home, safe on the couch, surrounded by pillows, and learning from all this valuable information on the computer. I'll keep them safe, not let them ride bikes, go sled riding or ice skating. Far to dangerous. Maybe I'll head to Chucky Cheese and play video games and teach them great gambling skills, then off to have a glass of hormone injected milk. I've changed my mind, I will offer my kids the opportunity to experience a lot more, the same that I have. You can jump into a pool and break your neck, you can smack the earth at 120MPH while skydiving, you can do a flip on trampoline and dislocate your shoulder, and you can eat ice cream and die of diabetes. All of these things can provide an amazing experience if you take responsibility for yourself and approach each experience in a certain manner. It is not the fault of the trampoline park, or the parachute, or the ice cream man. Parachutes don't fail to open, people fail to open them.

missing her brother August 02, 2012 | 3:59 PM

My brother lost his LIFE on February 5th, 2012 from a severe neck injury from a trampoline park in Phoenix AZ. I miss him every second. Its important for others to know how dangerous these places are. He was 30 and in amazing health...he should not have died.

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