Trampoline parks: Jump for joy? Not so much

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.

Are trampolines worth the risk?
Girl on the trampoline

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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