'Appalling': How to avoid unsafe trampoline parks 'in for quick buck'

Rebecca Tinning with her children Georgina and Darcy at Sky Zone trampoline park in Alexandria.
Rebecca Tinning with her children Georgina and Darcy at Sky Zone trampoline park in Alexandria. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Half of the 70 trampoline parks in Australia have been accused of prioritising profit over safety and driving up "appalling" injury rates, while only a quarter are planning to comply with tough new standards.

In a bid to curb the rising number of trampoline injuries, the industry, doctors and academics have developed Australia's first official standards for trampoline parks, which cover safety requirements and test methods.

"The injury rate was appalling; we had lots of injuries from the usual sprained ankles to spinal-type injuries that left children in wheelchairs," injury prevention expert and committee chairman David Eager said.

Trampoline parks, such as Sky Zone in Alexandria, have surged in popularity in recent years.
Trampoline parks, such as Sky Zone in Alexandria, have surged in popularity in recent years. Photo: Janie Barrett

"We haven't had any deaths in Australia, but there's been five around the world."

Nearly 500 children and teenagers presented to emergency departments with injuries sustained at trampoline parks in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia between 2012 and 2017, a University of Sydney study showed.

The new standards cover all aspects of a park, from the heights of trampolines off the ground, to the number of staff and the most appropriate games to play at the park.

Professor Eager said the industry could be split into two cohorts - 50 per cent were trying to do the right thing and the other 50 per cent were "in for a quick buck, making money and leaving a bunch of injured people behind".

Only eight operators running 17 of the 70 trampoline parks are publicly committing to the voluntary standards.

These eight operators, including Sky Zone and Bounce, are all members of the Australian Trampoline Parks Association (ATPA), which has long been following its own code of practice.

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Professor Eager urged parents to take their children to an industry member park. He said if they were unable to, it would be difficult for them to determine whether a park was close to meeting the standards.

"A lot of the problems aren't obvious. If the foam pit is too shallow, how would you know unless you went in and measured the depth," he said.

He said the bottom-ranked parks would have to "pull everything down and start again" if they wanted to meet the standard.

Jessica from Melbourne suffered a neck injury at a trampoline park.
Jessica from Melbourne suffered a neck injury at a trampoline park. Photo: Supplied

ATPA's Chelsea Mannix said it would "love" for the standard to become mandatory.

She said ATPA members would be regularly audited to make sure they meet the standards.

"Of course there's always an element of risk, but the environment is more controlled," she said.

Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert is 'considering' calls for a mandatory standard.
Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert is 'considering' calls for a mandatory standard. Photo: AAP

Rebecca Tinning, who takes her children Georgina, 13, and Darcy, 11, to Sky Zone in Alexandria every week, said she was pleased the new standards were now in place.

"Trampolining is great in general - they get to know their body, they learn about risks and safety," she said.

"They've never had an injury, but I'm acutely aware they need to be safe and I'm glad Sky Zone is complying with it."

Dr Susan Adams, a paediatric surgeon at Sydney Children’s Hospital, said when a park opened nearby in 2014 she saw a spike in injuries. A similar pattern has been seen across the state.

"We see fractures that are more serious and require surgery," she said.

"There are things people can do - a lot of injuries come from double bouncing, when the force of an adult jumper is transmitted to the child and they fly off the trampoline."

Jessie was 23 when she landed on her neck and fractured her spine at a Melbourne park. Now 28, she still suffers from lower and mid back pain.

"I've accepted [the pain], I'm doing exercises but I don't think it's going to go away," she said. "If there are standards, every park should be using it. It's disappointing some wouldn't."

Asked whether the standards should be mandatory, federal Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert said: "I’m considering the trampoline park standard as well as a range of other standards."

The committee is now looking at developing a specific standard for dismount pits, as there isn't enough evidence to show what is safe.

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