Injury experts are urgently calling for a mandatory Australian Standard to prevent the rise of serious injuries linked to the booming use of indoor trampoline parks.
The call follows a string of catastrophic spinal injuries, public outcry, legal actions and new figures released today showing that nearly 500 children presented to hospital emergency departments across three Australian states between 2012-2017 due to injuries at indoor trampoline parks.
Indoor trampoline parks have risen in popularity since the first venue opened in 2012, with some 80 parks now operating across Australia.
“Attendance at indoor trampoline parks has soared, but unfortunately so has the number of injuries,” says the author of the new injury surveillance report, Dr Lisa Sharwood of the University of Sydney.
“Some of these incidents have caused permanent and lifelong disability and are now resulting in legal actions. Sadly, any changes we can make to prevent future injuries will be too late for many children and teenagers whose lives will never be the same.”
A draft Australian Standard (DR AS 5159.1) is currently under review for release later this year by Standards Australia but will only be voluntary.
Standards are documents that set out specifications, procedures and guidelines designed to ensure products, services and systems are safe, reliable and consistent.
Injury experts say that where a Standard is voluntary (non-mandatory), the pressure on manufacturers and industry isn’t strong enough to prevent injuries at indoor trampoline parks. They point to the ineffectiveness of the voluntary Australian Standard applying to backyard trampolines that was released in 2003, prior to the introduction of indoor trampoline parks.
“Most injuries at that time involved falling onto or off domestic trampolines, so the 2003 Standard sought to reduce these types of injuries by focusing on frame-padding and labelling,” Dr Sharwood says.
“Despite this, trampoline injuries increased, due in part to the increasing popularity of trampolines as well as the fall in unit price of products that were predominantly imported.”
Lack of compliance with the 2003 Standard, as well as pressure from Australian manufacturers to curb poor quality products sold into the Australian market, led to its revision in 2006, with the intent that it would be mandated by state-based Offices of Fair Trading.
This never happened, and the Standard remains voluntary despite alarmingly high rates of preventable injuries to children.
“An Australian Standard applicable to indoor trampoline parks would aim to ensure that operators establish and run their venues with public safety as their first and foremost priority,” says Dr Sharwood.
More hopefully, the Australian Trampoline Park Association has a Code of Practice mandating several safety and regulatory issues, but membership is voluntary and only one-third of trampoline park operators are ATPA members.
Recommendations to make these venues safer include ensuring surrounding landing surfaces have adequate, appropriately placed protective padding, which is replaced when damaged or worn.
The foam pits trampoline jumpers land in are the site of most serious injuries yet there are no safety recommendations applying to foam pits.
Recommendations for the foam pits include depth and breadth of the pit, type and density of foam used and under-surfacing which absorbs energy and protects the occupant. This could include a second trampoline in the base of the pit to provide this.
“Until we have a mandatory Australian Standards to protect people using indoor trampoline parks, people should be informed of the safety standards of the venue they attend, including whether the venue is a member of the Australian Trampoline Park Association,” advises Dr Sharwood.
A new injury surveillance report published today in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health reveals: