Kids (and even some adults) love flying through the air on a trampoline. Parents think trampoline parks are a great way to keep their kids active. Many believe there is no danger in an environment where a child literally will bounce up from a fall.
Indeed, the trampoline park industry is jumping. What started with one trampoline park in Las Vegas in 2004, has exploded to more than 800 trampoline parks across the U.S. Many of these parks offer added attractions such as zip lines, rock climbing walls and foam pits, where patrons are encouraged to perform daring stunts.
As the trampoline park industry has grown, emergency room visits for related injuries increased by 211 percent from 6,200 in 2014 to 19,300 in 2018, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). When at-home trampolines are factored in, the estimated number of emergency room visits for trampoline accidents soared to more than 116,000 for 2018. The CPSC reports a total of 22 trampoline-related deaths in the 10-year period between 2000 and 2009. Investigative journalists recently confirmed that at least six people in the U.S. have died from trampoline park-related accidents since 2012. According to news reports, the number could be even higher, as victims of trampoline accidents and their families are often forced into arbitrations or sign confidentiality agreements that stop them from speaking out.
Trampoline-park accidents that have recently grabbed headlines include:
Stated bluntly: trampoline parks are inherently dangerous by design. These parks consist of multiple trampolines connected by steel cables or chain links under thin padding. The trampolines have a higher tensile strength than backyard trampolines and may produce a “harder bounce which amplifies the loading in bones and ligaments,” according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. Moreover, as multiple people jump, waves of energy are created in all directions, which affects how other users interact with the trampolines.
By way of example, in a case that received significant media attention, a father who was hopping from trampoline to trampoline caused what is known as a “double bounce,” where the force of the trampoline from which he launched his first hop came back up and broke his 4-year-old son’s femur. The father, who was no longer on the same trampoline as his son, was oblivious to the accident. It took almost a full minute before anyone — including the employee responsible for monitoring the trampoline — realized that the child was lying face down on the canvass screaming in pain.
These hard bounces are even dangerous for adults. A 33-year-old mother of two went public with her story of shattering her lower leg bones while doing nothing more than jumping at a Michigan trampoline park. “You can hurt yourself. Like, I understand that, you know, that’s a possibility,” she told the news media. “But never in my wildest dream would I ever thought that a trampoline could have the power to shatter an adult human leg.”
Another hazard is high-speed, high-impact collisions with other jumpers. In another widely reported case, a 4-year-old boy broke his leg when an older child bounced on it. His mother went public with her child’s story because she wanted parents to understand that trampoline parks are not just a fun place. “It’s a place where people can get hurt,” she said.
And while anyone of any age can be injured in a trampoline park, these parks are particularly dangerous for young children. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends that children younger than age 6 should not use trampolines, stating that they are “less likely to have the coordination, body awareness, and swift reaction time necessary to keep their bodies, bones and brains safe on trampolines.” The American Academy of Pediatrics goes even further, advising against the use of trampolines by all children, unless they are part of supervised training for sports, such as gymnastics.
Yet despite the recommendations of medical experts, trampoline parks encourage small children to participate. A review of websites found major chains touting trampolines as “suitable for all ages” and offering “toddler times” and specially designated areas for the tiniest jumpers. To be clear: even when young children are separated from older children and adults, their bones are still too fragile to sustain the stress of repetitive jumping on a trampoline, according to medical experts.
But parents, unaware of the danger, continue to allow their children to jump. Even worse, kids (and sometimes adults) may feel emboldened to attempt risky stunts without the benefit of gymnastics training. And why wouldn’t they? Sky Zone, for instance, promises on its website that patrons can “fly without fear” with “soft landings” into a foam pit that “will feel like a cloud.” A gymnastics coach told the news media that trampoline parks are called “death parks” by everyone in the gymnastics community.
Astoundingly, although recreational trampolines used in backyards are governed by federally mandated safety regulations, there are no federal regulations in place for trampoline parks. While a handful of states do regulate trampoline parks, the vast majority do not, and the industry has been left largely to police its own safety. The fact is that the safety of jumpers at trampoline parks in most cases is governed by nothing more than voluntary standards created primarily by the trampoline park industry itself, which operators are free to ignore.
Alan M. Feldman, a co-founding partner at Feldman Shepherd who focuses on personal injury and product liability cases, recommends contacting an attorney as soon as possible following a trampoline park accident. When questioned about the safety of these parks, Feldman said “these preventable injuries are absolutely unacceptable. It is tragic that trampoline parks are putting the safety of young children and other patrons at risk, given the catastrophic nature of trampoline-related injuries.”
Feldman identified a number of parties who bear potential legal liability for trampoline park accidents, including:
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