Last year, my firm got a call from the father of a young girl whose leg was severely broken at Sky High Sports, an indoor trampoline park. A much larger and heavier man jumped onto the trampoline with my 12-year-old client. The result was a compound fracture of her tibia and fibula, a surgery, and likely lifelong problems.
It was a gruesome injury: she was clearly seriously hurt, yet people around her kept jumping on the trampoline where she was laying and crying in pain. The employees at Sky High Sports initially chastised her for lying down on the trampoline before realizing she was hurt. After that, it quickly became clear that the staff – all young teenagers– did not know what to do. Several of the parents called 911 and eventually an adult manager of Sky High was called to come in from off-site. It appeared that there was no protocol at the facility for when someone was injured.
In working on this and similar trampoline park cases, an interesting pattern has emerged: anger from health care professionals. On multiple occasions parents have recounted conversations with ER nurses and orthopedic surgeons who are angry: “Why are we seeing so many serious injuries from the same place?” It turns out that the same trampoline center where my young client was injured had seen a number of kids leave with broken bones in just a couple of months; still, they were completely unprepared.
Trampolines themselves come with some inherent danger. However, trampoline centers unnecessarily increase this danger because they routinely violate the “cardinal rule” of trampoline safety: only one person on the trampoline at a time.
Inside Edition did an investigation on safety problems in trampoline parks that shows some alarming video footage of small children jump on trampolines with adults – and little or no supervision. When there are multiple people on the same trampoline, especially of varying weights, the risk of injury greatly increases.
Facts about trampoline parks
The most common trampoline injury is a broken tibia or fibula – a harsh injury for growing children, as they likely will have their mobility compromised for the next 70 years or so. Doctors can insert metal plates that move as the children grow, but often they are precluded from sports and other vigorous activity, and often have ugly surgical scars. Nearly 100,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for trampoline injuries in 2010.
Serious injuries have been in the news across the U.S. A healthy 30-year-old man died after breaking his neck in a foam pit at Skypark outside of Phoenix, Arizona. New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain sustained a career-threatening injury at Florida trampoline center when he suffered an open dislocation of his right ankle, shoving the bone through the skin. And in this video, you can hear a man’s leg snap as his flips on a trampoline at Xtreme Trampolines in Chicago.
There is very little regulation for these trampoline facilities, and it varies by state AND county. Additionally, laws regarding assumption of risk, and liability waivers, vary largely by state. Virtually every trampoline park requires that patrons, their parents, or both sign a long and legally complex waiver before jumping. Often, parents sign off on behalf of their children without knowing the gravity of potential injuries, or the lack of supervision of the patrons at trampoline parks. While no state enforces these waivers against intentional or malicious conduct, many require gross negligence before letting the minor out of the agreement their parent signed for them.
As of last year, about 50 trampoline parks were operating in the U.S.: their revenue is estimated to be near $100 million dollars. It is clear that these trampoline parks are making a lot of money by putting unsuspecting parents and children in danger.