CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – 10 On Your Side investigated your rights and your risks at trampoline parks, which are growing in popularity in Hampton Roads.
Since the beginning of the year, two more trampoline parks have opened in the area, but there’s controversy over just how safe they really are. A leading local pediatrician is warning against trampoline parks, but a park manager told 10 On Your Side safety is his first priority.
Jonathan Allen of Virginia Beach is 13 and hoping to rebound. In late December he couldn’t wait to get through the doors at Cloud9 Trampoline Park in Chesapeake. “I was like come on, let’s jump let’s jump!”
After he and his church group tried the foam pit, an obstacle course, and dodge ball, it was time for a relay race. But just moments into the competition, Jonathan’s world came crashing down. “All I just heard was a crack and I looked at my leg and I was like, ‘Oh my God.’”
Instead of landing on a trampoline, he had landed on the padded steel framework between the trampolines. His adult sister Martina was with the group that day. “Once I got to him I was just trying to calm him down, because you know, it’s my little brother, my youngest brother.”
Soon he was in the back of an ambulance, with fractures to his tibia and fibula, on the way to CHKD. That’s where Dr. Faiqa Qureshi is the head of the emergency room. She has no young children, but said if she did she would not let them jump at a trampoline park. Dr. Qureshi told 10 On Your Side that the most common serious injuries from trampolines are broken bones in the arms and legs.
“It might be better than sitting and playing a video game for three and four hours,” Qureshi said about trampoline parks, “but there are other safer things to do.”
Cloud9 general manager Gavin Grissom says “safety is absolutely our highest priority.” He says his staff is focused on safe jumping and safe equipment. “They know the rules. They know the things to look for when they’re working out on the jump floor.”
Trampoline Parks have an association, but they regulate themselves. Association guidelines for staff supervision call for a ratio of one staff member to every 32 participants. Grissom says Cloud9 strives for one to 20.
Grissom declined to give actual visitor totals since CLoud9 opened in the fall of 2013, other than to say the park has had “tens of thousands upon tens of thousands of people who come through the door.”
Grissom says his injury rate is less than one half of one percent. 10 On Your Side showed Dr. Qureshi the ambulance reports from Cloud9. The records provided by Chesapeake EMS show an average of two ambulance calls to the park each month since it opened.
Some involve injuries to children as young as two and three. The American Academy of Pediatrics says they are the ones at greatest risk. “Trampolines should not be used for kids under six. That is one of (the AAP’s) recommendations. So already the twos and threes should not be on it,” Dr. Qureshi said.
Cloud9 said, in general, that that minimum age requirement has not applied to the indoor trampoline industry, and says its own rule requires children 6 and younger to have an adult with them at all times.
Grissom says his staff inspects the equipment daily, and he conducts additional inspections weekly, monthly and quarterly.
If participants are reckless, they get bounced. “We have the authority to eject them if necessary,” Grissom said. “We want them to be safe and we want everyone around them to be safe.”
Jonathan Allen is hoping for a full recovery so he can get back into martial arts and drumming for the church band. He and his sister say they aren’t trying to keep people away from trampoline parks.
“We don’t want you to be put out of business, we want you to have more business, but we don’t want people to get hurt,” Martina Allen said.
Just before 13-year-old Jonathan Allen fractured two bones in his leg, he and his older sister did what everyone must do at Cloud9 Trampoline Park.
Before anyone can participate at Cloud9, they sign a waiver that says they are giving up their rights to sue for any injury, paralysis or death. John Cooper, a personal injury attorney in Norfolk, says it is not an enforceable agreement. Cooper said parents should explore their legal rights if a serious injury should happen. “The tendency has been that courts do respect the waiver and it’s basically an industry standard,” Grissom said.
The release requires the participant to sign off on the safety of the premises and the equipment. “I don’t know how I could begin to do the inspection duty that they’re trying to foist on me as a parent,” Cooper said.
“We don’t build our business on the waiver,” Grissom responded. “What we build our business on is safety.”