What’s the latest craze in children’s recreation? Trampoline parks. They hit their maximum capacity on weekends, with hundreds of kids jumping high into the air. Kids let loose, jumping in the air at high speed, in close proximity to each other—what could possibly go wrong? I will be honest. As a mom, I allowed this experience once. After what I saw, I am not sure I would allow it again. These trampoline parks operate in the United States without any federal oversight. While some states are trying to pass laws to make them safer, there are no state-enforced safety requirements or inspections. Before you decide to “jump at your own risk,” learn why trampoline parks are so dangerous.
What Are Trampoline Parks?
Trampoline parks are facilities where visitors pay to have access to spaces with floors, and sometimes walls, that are primarily constructed of built-in trampolines. The popularity of these trampoline parks has exploded over the past few years, with over 800 in the United States. This billion-dollar industry can be a fun activity for children and adults alike, but serious injuries or even deaths have occurred at trampoline parks. These facilities remain largely unregulated and there is no true way to ensure that your trampoline park meets any safety standards.
The Danger in the Design
The number of trampoline-related injuries resulting in emergency room visits in 2017 reached almost 18,000. In these parks, trampolines are typically held together with steel cables or chain links under a thin type of padding. As kids jump on these trampolines, waves of energy shoot out in all directions and cause “double bounces” that often end in high-impact collisions. In many cases, children will move at high speeds or great velocity and crash into others that are twice their weight or height, causing substantial injuries.
The trampoline park injuries are non-fatal. However, there have been cases of both children and adults dying in trampoline parks. Some of the most common injuries include the following:
Spinal cord injuries
Concussions (oftentimes from hitting your head on a hard surface)
Cuts or bruises from the springs of the trampolines
Broken bones or fractures
More serious injuries have included paralysis, traumatic brain injuries, and death.
There is a common misconception that once you sign a waiver, you have signed away all your rights. This is simply not true. While there is an assumption of risk involved in going to a trampoline park, there are some instances where injuries may occur due to the negligence, carelessness, or recklessness of another. Therefore, even if you have signed a waiver, you did not sign away your right to recover damages if there was negligence or recklessness on behalf of the trampoline park. If the trampoline park was poorly maintained in any way, or if there were defective parts or conditions, then they may be liable when someone is injured. If the equipment was not up to industry standards, then your wavier is automatically invalidated. Other signs of negligence include the following:
Littering of unnecessary equipment near the trampolines
Exposure of dangerous materials such as toxic gas or sharp metals
Old or worn netting or padding
Understaffing and the inability to supervise jumpers appropriately
These are only some of the ways a trampoline park can be negligent. Allowing adults and children to jump together can also be negligent, as more catastrophic injuries can occur when children collide with adults.
Who Is Liable?
If you were injured in a trampoline park, you may be wondering who is actually liable for your injuries. The company that installed the park may be liable, the park itself may be liable, or the manufacturer of the equipment may be liable. Depending on the nature and details of the accident, you may be able to sue one of these parties, but you should consult with experienced legal counsel to determine if a facility was non-compliant or negligent. Every trampoline park has a duty to keep their premises safe, train and supervise their staff and employees, and eliminate all expected or foreseeable risks to attempt to prevent injuries or death.
What Do Experts Say?
Trampolines were originally designed as training devices for elite gymnasts and military pilots. The evolution of trampolines into a children’s activity came several years later. Eventually, trampoline parks began to emerge. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) cautioned against trampoline parks, stating that smaller and younger trampoline users were at a greater risk for significant injury. While the AAP has never specifically stated that children should never go to a trampoline park, they have stated that “trampolines should never be used in the home environment, in routine physical education classes or in outdoor playgrounds.” Additionally, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has also recommended that trampolines not be used due to the high risk of injuries that may occur.
Look Before You Leap
In life, accidents are often unavoidable. However, in the case of the trampoline park trend, an abundance of caution is suggested. Even if a parent does everything correctly, there is usually no way to know if a trampoline park is employing grossly negligent practices or has manufacturing defects in their equipment until it is too late. If you make the decision to go to a trampoline park, try to do so at times when it is not very busy and wait until your children are older. Or, you could be like this overprotective mother and take them to the movies instead.