Personal Injury

Trampolines pose danger to children, risk to homeowners

By Paul Russell, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor

Toronto personal injury lawyer Alison Burrison has some simple advice for parents thinking of taking their children to a trampoline park or buying one of these structures for the backyard: don’t.

“Generally speaking, trampolines are a very risky business for homeowners and owners of these types of parks,” says Burrison, founder of Burrison Law.

She points to a recent CBC News story, which states that a 2007 study showed trampoline-related injuries were the second-highest cause of admission to hospital out of all sports and recreation injuries.

These emergency room visits increased 56 per cent between 1990 and 2001, with the most common complaints being upper limb fractures, sprains and strains, Burrison tells AdvocateDaily.com. Though less common, trampoline usage also caused cervical spine injuries, vertebral artery dissections and significant knee ligament damage.

“There are more than 1,000 trampoline parks worldwide, and they’ve all come into existence in the last decade,” says Burrison. “As they increase in number in this country, our hospitals are seeing trampoline injuries almost daily.”

Canadian trampoline parks are unregulated in terms of what safety features are required, says Burrison, warning people not to be fooled by their padded walls and floors.

“When parents see that, they think their children are safe, but that is very untrue,” she says. “Since these parks are not regulated, there could be real differences in materials, so the foam pads a park decides to use could be quite thin.”

According to the CBC story, park employees generally don’t intervene when participants break the rules and engage in unsafe actions such as flips or jumping headfirst into foam pits. Reporters even filmed a baby crawling away after being bounced by an older child on a trampoline.

Burrison says home trampolines are increasing in numbers across Canada, and so are hospital admissions resulting from accidents on them.

“It’s interesting that both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine (CASEM) recommended that trampolines not be used in the backyard,” she says.

They are not only dangerous to children, says Burrison, but could be costly to parents if a child is hurt while using them.

“As a homeowner, you’re fully exposed to being sued under the Occupier’s Liability Act if someone is injured on a trampoline in your yard, whether or not they have permission to use it,” she says. “There’s a special provision in the Act that sets a very high duty of care when it comes to children.”

Burrison recommends that homeowners with trampolines take steps to minimize the risk they pose.

“Make sure you contact your home insurance company so that you are covered in case of an accident,” she says.

Physical access to the trampoline should be restricted, Burrison says, through fencing or gates, to prevent unauthorized children from using it when you are not watching, since you are still liable for their safety.

“An adult should be supervising when children are using it and enforcing the no flips or tricks rule because that’s where you see the most severe injuries happening to children, especially spinal cord damage,” she says.

The number of children allowed on the trampoline at one time must be limited, Burrison says, adding that it is dangerous to have children of significantly different weights bouncing together, as the lighter child may be accidentally bounced onto the frame or springs, resulting in a sudden and painful stop.

Even bouncy castles can cause injuries and death, she says, noting that in the United Kingdom, a three-year-old girl died while jumping in a bouncy castle, when it exploded and launched her almost 10 metres into the air.

“I agree with the AAP and the CASEM, which advise parents not to have a trampoline, especially if you have children between the ages of five and 10,” Burrison says. “They are the most susceptible to being injured, yet will be the ones that want to use it the most.”

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