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Are safety guards at trampoline parks enough?

As commercial indoor trampoline parks become increasingly popular, trampoline-related injuries among children and adults are also on the rise. Existing research indicates that people who use trampolines are at high risk for falling onto the head or neck, resulting in traumatic brain injury (TBI) and traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI). However, most of these studies have focused on injuries sustained from at-home trampolines, so researchers have little knowledge about injury patterns associated with commercial trampoline parks.

A research team addressed this gap by presenting a case study of a 26-year-old man who developed tetraplegia (paralysis of all four limbs) after falling head-first into a foam pit at a commercial trampoline park. They hope that information about this patient’s experiences, injuries, and outcomes will expand the literature about trampoline-related SCI.

In early 2019, the patient (hereafter referred to as “John”) visited an indoor trampoline park, which was equipped with cushioned safety guards, railing, and walls. The park also provided a pit filled with large foam cubes, intended to catch park attendees who wished to jump or flip off of the trampolines. John dove into the foam pit and landed head-first, causing the joints and muscles in his neck to over-flex and resulting in total loss of motor control. The researchers suspect that the rubbery foam cubes had a high degree of surface friction, which abruptly stopped John’s head rather than allowing him to glide gently along the surface.

At the hospital, John was diagnosed with complete SCI. An imaging procedure showed dislocation of his C6-7 spinal segment (located at the top of the spine, at the base of the neck). As a result, a piece of the spinal segment shifted into the spinal nerve, resulting in total paralysis of his lower body and partial paralysis of his upper body. John underwent a month of intensive physical therapy to address his injuries, but his condition never improved.

This case report highlights the significant dangers associated with commercial trampoline parks. Even with proper padding and other safety precautions—including the cushioned foam pit where John was injured—individuals who visit these parks are at high risk for sustaining serious, potentially life-threatening injuries to the head and spine. Currently, no standard safety guidelines exist for the construction and maintenance of these recreational parks. The researchers emphasize that a mandatory safety protocol for indoor trampoline parks may significantly reduce the likelihood of serious injury.

Lee JE, Kim JH, Park CH, et al. Are safe guards at trampoline parks safe enough? Medicine. (October 2019).


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