The dangers of indoor trampoline parks: rise in children with injuries presenting at emergency

 Photo: Joseph Fell

Injuries sustained in indoor trampoline parks are an "emerging public health concern" finds new Australian research into trampolining injuries seen at Sydney Children's Hospital over a six-month period.

As part of the study, published in the journal Injury Prevention, the researchers examined patients from the emergency department of Sydney Children's Hospital – a level 1 paediatric trauma centre – who presented with injuries from indoor trampoline centres. From July 2014 – January 2015, 40 children required medical treatment for their trampoline park injuries.

In Australia, there has been an increase in the popularity of these parks – with over twenty new centres appearing in the last three years. Approximately three new centres open every month

And yet, the authors note, public health and prevention initiatives in Australia have primarily focused on domestic home trampolines. "Given that trampolines in these parks are designed, built and used in different ways as compared with domestic trampolines," they write, "it is likely that both the nature and mechanism may vary between these injury sources."

As such, their study aimed to examine the patterns of injuries in commercial trampoline centres and exactly how they were sustained.

To be eligible for the research, participants had to be 17 years old or under, "and the principal reason for their presentation to hospital was an injury sustained at an indoor trampoline centre." Other patients were also identified retrospectively from the emergency hospital database.

Medical records were reviewed, and participants, or their parents, were interviewed about the circumstances of the injury.

During the six-month study, 40 patients presented to the Sydney Children's Hospital with injuries sustained from indoor trampolining – 55 per cent of them girls. The average age was 10.4 years and the youngest was only 12 months old.

Here's a breakdown of how the injuries were sustained:

  • Most commonly, the child was bouncing on a trampoline alone – generally a result of a "failed landing."
  • This was followed by situations where there were multiple concurrent users of a single trampoline. "Most of these occurred when the smaller of the two (or more) users fell as a result of the increased energy transferred from the larger bouncer, resulting in a mistimed landing or being projected to an unexpected height or distance."
  • Two children were injured from falls while dismounting.
  • One child was injured from a standing height trip over an obstacle in the holding bay area.
  • 52 per cent of the injuries occurred while involved in "simple jumping activities."
  • 12.5 per cent of children were injured while attempting somersaults or flips.
  • Six children in the study were injured when they fell on something that was on the trampoline, such as a ball.

What were the injuries?

  • 55 per cent were soft tissue injuries or sprains. (Ankle sprains were most common.)
  • 37.5 per cent sustained fractured bone(s). (Fractured elbows and ankles were most common.)
  • Other injuries included a lip laceration, a concussion and chest pain.
  • There was one fracture/dislocation of a cervical vertebra.

Of the findings, the authors write, "The rise in popularity of trampoline parks has seen a corresponding rise in the number of injuries. While most of the injuries presented in our cohort are minor, they range in severity, with over 12 per cent requiring operative intervention."

The researchers also highlighted the main differences between injuries sustained on trampolines in the home, and injuries sustained in commercial centres.

"Trampolines in centres are generally not raised off the ground but built into it, meaning that it is not possible to 'fall off' the trampoline, while this is the most common mechanism of injury in home trampolines," the authors note. Instead, injuries in trampoline parks tend to occur on the trampoline surface.

"These differences require injury prevention strategies that engage children, carers and businesses to meet best practice design and management standards," they write.

The researchers noted that further investigation is also needed into "risk-taking and behavioural differences of children in large groups, who may visit trampoline parks (e.g. for a birthday party or school trip) without direct parental supervision, compared with domestic trampolines."

Has your child been injured while at a trampoline centre?