NBC12 Investigation: Trampoline parks not regulated by feds

Published: Feb. 2, 2015 at 9:06 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 2, 2015 at 10:57 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Advertisements for trampoline parks are everywhere nowadays. They are billed as a good time, fun for the kids and even exercise for adults. But are they safe?

Our On Your Side Investigation revealed the parks are not regulated in the way one might think, like amusement parks or fairs. In fact, they are not regulated by the federal government and while some states take action, Virginia is not one of them.

At a family celebration for her mother's birthday, Gari Reynolds' fun jumping on trampolines at SkyZone started at 11:30.

"I jumped onto the first trampoline," she said. "It was a very well made trampoline, and I wasn't ready for that."

Two minutes later, something went terribly wrong.

"When I came down, I dislocated my ankle," she said. "My foot came out of place."

"Her foot was going to the right and her leg was going to the left," her father, Greg, said. "It was bad."

Reynolds' case isn't the only example of someone getting hurt at a trampoline park. There are two in our area -- one in Chesterfield and another in Glen Allen.

Chesterfield Police and EMS responded to SkyZone four times in 2014, but none of them were injury calls.

On the other hand, Jumpology in Glen Allen has kept Henrico EMS crews busy. There have been at least five calls involving injuries. The emergencies run from broken legs, head injuries and falls from heights of at least four feet.

Nathan King, General Manager of Jumpology, said most often injuries are limited to things like rug burns and sprained ankles.

"We believe that this main rule, no running, if we prevent kids from running it's going to prevent a lot of other injuries," he said.

The park also has uniformed staff who watch for unsafe people and blow whistles to alert them.

"There are risks with trampolining," King said. "This activity is just like rock climbing. It's just like figure skating. We don't try to cover up the fact that sometimes we do have to call 911, but overall the injuries have been minor, and I believe that if people come in here and they follow the rules, that most likely they will be leaving on both feet."

The industry as a whole is actually regulating itself. Owners have joined together to form the Association of Trampoline Parks.

"We look at everything through the lens of creating an optimally safe environment," Jeffrey Platt, president and CEO of SkyZone and association president, said.

At Platt's parks, like the one in Chesterfield, there are signs posted just about everywhere, along with a rules video playing constantly. The association spent about two years working on a safety standard dealing with everything from foam thickness and padding to training the court monitors.

"We strongly believe that if you are going to open a trampoline park you should take a good look at that standard, you should be complying with the vast majority of that standard. And if for any reason you're deviating from that standard, the question of why should come up," he said.

Right now, that standard is voluntary, not required.

"I think over the long run, it absolutely does need to be a requirement," Platt said. "The tough part about making a standard a requirement is the fact that because it constantly evolves it would require operators to constantly be changing."

Most parks also require jumpers to sign a liability waiver. It acknowledges the risks of the park. At our two local facilities, everyone is required to sign before jumping.

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