911 calls detail trampoline park injuries in Central Florida

Patrons report broken bones, head injuries

News 6 investigates reports of injuries at Central Florida trampoline parks.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Broken bones, dislocated joints and injuries to patrons' heads and necks are just some of the medical calls that paramedics have responded to at Central Florida trampoline parks, 911 calls placed from those entertainment facilities reveal.

Typically located in strip malls and warehouses, the parks provide children and adults with a place to jump on trampolines of different shapes, sizes and angles. Many facilities also feature trampoline pits filled with foam blocks, dodge ball arenas or obstacle course elements like warped walls and tightropes. 

"We had an accident," an employee of Hangar 15 in Daytona Beach told an emergency dispatcher last November. "It sounds like a little girl fell off one of our ledges and hit her head on the way down. Her parents asked me to call 911. She just puked."

The 4-year-old girl, whose identity was not released due to medical privacy laws, had been jumping into a trampoline filled with foam blocks from an elevated height when she struck her head on the edge of the pit, according to her father.

"She's not bleeding but her mother was rocking her. She's telling her, 'Don't rock me. Don't rock me. It hurts,'" the father explained to the 911 dispatcher. "She basically (lost consciousness). She never closed her eyes, but she's not herself right now."

A spokesperson for Hangar 15 said the company could not provide an update on the child's condition or comment about any particular incident, citing their respect for patrons' privacy.

CBS News reports that at least six people have died of injuries at trampoline parks in the past seven years.

Nearly 18,000 emergency room visits were caused by trampoline park injuries in 2017 nationwide, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a significant increase from the 2,500 injuries reported just four years earlier.

The International Association of Trampoline Parks said those injury numbers are lower or on par with youth sports such as soccer, basketball and volleyball.

The industry trade group attributes the recent increase in injury reports to the growing number of trampoline parks.

"The industry has grown steadily since 2011 when we saw 40 parks worldwide. Now we have over 1,200 across the U.S. and all over the world," said Bethany Evans, executive vice president of IATP. "You can have positive experiences at parks if you just follow the rules and take some precautions with safety."

Adults and children sustaining injuries, 911 calls show

An employee of Outer Limitz Indoor Trampoline Arena in Orlando called 911 in July 2017 to report that an approximately 30-40 year-old woman had broken her leg.

"Her daughter said that she tried to jump across the trampoline," the employee told the 911 dispatcher.  "And the mom attempted it.  And she said she thinks her leg just buckled.  And it didn't end well."

"Is there any serious bleeding?" the dispatcher asked.

"No, but you can see a bone looked like it popped out of place," the employee responded.

An 11-year-old boy reportedly broke his arm at that same trampoline park in February 2018, according to another 911 call.

Orlando Fire Department crews responded to Airheads Adventure Arena in Orlando last October to assist an injured boy.

"A parent told her son to try to do a flip and he landed on his back.  But he said his neck cracked," the employee reported. "His eyes are rolling back."

At Sky Zone in Daytona Beach, a child playing dodge ball needed medical attention last summer.

"A little girl just popped her shoulder out of place. Can I get an ambulance, please?" a manager asked the 911 dispatcher.

Two weeks later, a 19-year-old man reportedly suffered a similar injury.

"I just had someone jump into the foam, possibly dislocated his shoulder," said the employee.

At Sky Zone Space Coast in Rockledge, an 11-year-old boy was screaming as he awaited paramedics to treat his knee injury.

"He was just bouncing, and we tried to get him up and he's just not getting up," the employee told dispatchers.

Few lawsuits filed against trampoline parks in Central Florida

A News 6 review of court records found very few lawsuits filed against Central Florida's trampoline parks.

A mother sued Hangar 15 for negligence in September 2017 claiming her 16-year-old son jumped from the warped wall and was significantly injured. 

Three months later, another woman filed a lawsuit against Hangar 15 alleging that her son was hurt when a trampoline propelled him onto a set of unpadded steps.

Confidential settlements were reached in both cases, court records show.

While the cases were still in litigation, attorneys representing Hangar 15 pointed out that authorized adults signed liability waivers on behalf of the minors.

"By signing this agreement, I am giving up my rights and the rights of my spouse and/or child(ren) to sue Hangar 15 for any injury, including paralysis or death, caused in whole or in part by the negligence or fault of Hangar 15," the participant release states.

Legal experts believe such liability releases deter injured participants from filing lawsuits.

In addition, some waivers contain forced arbitration clauses that make it more difficult for customers to take trampoline park operators to court.

"Trampoline parks want to avoid justice. They want to rig the system against anyone who is injured who may assert claims against them," said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.  

The Connecticut Democrat is sponsoring a bill that would eliminate forced arbitration clauses in consumer cases.

"Congress should have a role here ... but the biggest deterrent to death and injury at these parks will be the park owners being hauled into court, held responsible, deemed culpable, having to pay," Blumenthal told CBS News.

Trampoline park operators respond to News 6

Although representatives from Hangar 15 did not comment on the lawsuits, a company spokesperson told News 6, "The safety and well-being of our visitors is a top priority, and we adhere to the strictest standards prescribed by the International Association of Trampoline Parks."

The owner of Airheads Adventure Arena acknowledged that injuries can occur at trampoline parks but he said no one has ever filed an insurance claim against his company, which operates five trampoline parks in Florida and Minnesota.

"I've seen some parks that are poorly run and taking chances," Russ Pikus told News 6.  "The first words out of my mouth are, 'Safety. Safety. Safety. Safety.'"

After buying three existing trampoline parks in Florida three years ago, Pikus said he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars bringing the facilities up to trampoline park standards set by ASTM International.

"I can go to bed at night knowing I've done everything possible to keep our patrons safe," Pikus said.

In response to this report, a Sky Zone spokesperson provided the following statement:

“At Sky Zone, the safety of our guests is our top priority and we are committed to ongoing safety evaluations. As with any physical activity or sport, there are inherent risks. We invest in best-in-class equipment and take several measures to reduce these risks, such as daily equipment and area spot checks, and educate our guests about safety by posting important safety rules and guidelines throughout our parks. Additionally, we station court monitors near all trampoline attractions to help enforce those rules and monitor guest activity. When there is an injury, all incidents are analyzed internally and we consult with third-party industry experts to continuously learn from them and create the safest environment possible for Guests.”

After a representative with Outer Limitz provided News 6 with an email address, the company did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment for this story.

Industry trade group taking steps to minimize injuries

Unlike at least seven other states, Florida does not regulate trampoline parks or conduct mandatory inspections.

Even without state oversight, the International Association of Trampoline Parks plans to require its member parks to be evaluated by outside inspectors.

"We are looking to require third party inspections so that parents and visitors of our parks can have an extra layer of understanding and comfortability when they go visit a park to know ... they are operating with guest safety at the forefront of their agenda," said Evans.

The industry trade group shared the following recommendations for guests visiting trampoline parks:

                1. Never jump without a court monitor stationed at the activity.
                2. Be certain to read all rules and regulations posted throughout the park.
                3. Make sure to watch a safety video or have a safety briefing from staff.
                4. Always be aware of your surroundings, and never jump around or near other jumpers.
                5. If the park has a foam pit, make sure the foam is at or above the level of the trampoline.

"The AITP works tirelessly to improve industry standards and to make sure we're creating positive experiences for guests that visit our member parks," Evans told News 6.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.