Jump In Injuries Raises Questions About Trampoline Park Safety

December 18, 2013 | Charles Bowen

Trampoline parks seem to be popping up everywhere in the past several years. Six years ago, there were only six indoor trampoline parks across the country. Now that number has increased to more than 160, according to the COO of Jumpstreet, one such trampoline park operator. As with many new industries, the trampoline park market is a largely unregulated one; something that has raised concern among many safety experts who fear the parks may lead to serious harm in unsuspecting children.

The dangers posed by trampolines have long been understood by parents, with many removing backyard trampolines due to safety and liability concerns. According to a study commissioned by the American Academy of Pediatrics, trampoline accidents cause 160 injuries for every 100,000 children between the ages of five and 14 years old.

The same dangers presented by backyard models exist in larger commercial operations, often on a much larger scale. While backyard trampolines are small and can only hold a handful of children at a time, commercial trampoline parks can accommodate hundreds of bouncers at one time. The popularity of the trampoline parks has led to a dramatic rise in injuries, with reports revealing that in 2012 alone there were some 98,000 trampoline park-related accidents.

The injuries seen in the trampoline parks are often serious ones, described by some doctors as similar to war injuries. Physicians say that relatively minor injuries include things such as sprained ankles and minor concussions, injuries that are not among the most commonly seen. Instead, far more serious injuries occur, including traumatic brain injuries, fractured bones and broken spines, the kinds of problems seen following high-speed car accidents.

Though trampoline parks have taken some steps to ensure the safety of customers, experts say there is only so much that can be done. Adding nets, padding and additional employees is a step in the right direction, but many still rely on waivers to shield owners of trampoline parks from liability. As a result, some consumer rights advocates have called on state legislators to craft new rules to ensure that children playing in the parks are also protected.

Surprisingly, given the seriousness of the injuries some children have suffered, many states have been slow to regulate trampoline parks. So far California is one of the only ones to take action, instituting a mandatory inspection program and requiring operators to hold sizable insurance policies. Experts say states should do more; instituting regulations on how many children can use the trampolines at a given time as well as prohibiting use by children younger than six. Whether there’s enough public pressure to spur legislators to action remains to be seen.