“Lifelong disability” – Experts seek urgent action on indoor trampoline centres

child's feet on trampoline

We’ve written about the dangers of children using trampolines before on Babyology, but overnight even more damning evidence has surfaced, revealing just how dangerous trampolines can be.

“Permanent and lifelong disability”

Fractures of growing bones are just one of the very common injuries sustained by kids on this much loved play equipment, but a new University of Sydney study tells us that broken arms and legs are the tip of the iceberg, and that indoor trampoline parks are proving increasingly risky.

Study lead author Dr Lisa Sharwood told the ABC that kids were being left with permanent disabilities after jumping at trampoline parks.

“Some of these incidents have caused permanent and lifelong disability, resulting in legal action … but any changes we can make in the future will be too late for many children and teenagers whose lives will never be the same,” she said.

Dr Sharwood told SBS that the reported statistics are not a true indicator of what her team deems a serious public health issue.

“These are just cases that attended hospital. There would be many with injuries that will go to their GP, some with a sprained ankle may not even bother going to the doctor.”

“Before these parks existed there weren’t these types of injuries,” she explained.

Hundreds of injuries each year

What seems like a commonplace, super-fun thing to do is actually a really risky proposition for many kids.

The University of Sydney says almost 500 children and teens ended up in emergency rooms across three states between 2012 to 2017 after being injured at these centres. They tell us that while fractures and sprains were the most frequently sustained injuries, close to 20 per cent of injured kids had serious spinal chord and/or head injuries.

They found that children were most likely to get hurt from landing awkwardly, performing a somersault or when multiple people were jumping together.

In fact, this figure really does seem a little low. A Brisbane trampoline park former manager says the centre they worked at recorded 1100 injuries in the space of a single year. Googling “trampoline park injury” reveals a horror role call of adults and children seriously injured at unregulated centres.

Mandatory regulation needed 

Dr Sharwood and other child safety experts are urging the government to enforce mandatory safety standards for indoor trampoline centres. At the moment the industry is self-regulated and – as we can see from the injury count – this is not working for anyone.

“I believe a mandatory standard is the safest way to proceed so the public can have confidence that they are going to have that fun experience in the safest environment possible,” Dr Sharwood told the ABC.

Problems with indoor trampoline centres and the risk of injury to kids have been in the news for many, many years. Despite these centres trying to enforce their own safety protocols, its obvious that whatever they are doing it’s just not enough. Kids are getting hurt again and again.

There is currently a voluntary draft Australian Standard under review by Standards Australia. Mums and dads are advised to carefully consider using these facilities, educate themselves on how to ensure optimal safety — and make sure their chosen venue is a member of the Australian Trampoline Park Association.

Safety on home trampolines

At home, mums and dads are again advised to be aware of safe jumping guidelines and to ensure that the trampoline they choose for the backyard complies with safety standards. It’s also very important not to be complacent about safety or to assume that safety nets will ensure your child is not injured while jumping.

“The introduction of safety enclosures could lead parents to believe the risk of injury is less and constant supervision is not as necessary,” Monash Injury Research Institute’s Karen Ashby said.

“This unintended effect may be contributing to the increases in the number of injuries among the youngest children. There is also the possibility that older children and teenagers attempt more risky manoeuvres when netted enclosures are in place.”

Experts also advise that kids under six should not jump on trampolines AT ALL, because their growing bones are particularly susceptible to fractures.

Find out more about kids and trampoline safety here.

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