Trampoline parks are a fun venue for the whole family to enjoy. At least, they’re meant to be. There are loads of these parks spread across North America. However, the spotlight is shining on the safety of these attractions after a series of accidents.
Extreme Air Park, Canada’s largest indoor trampoline park, is under particular scrutiny after an accident involving four-year-old girl Maddie Villanueva in August 2018. The accident has led to her parents Sarah Villanueva and Jesse Charbonneau calling for the government to investigate the safety of these venues.
To begin with, Maddie was enjoying the facilities at the Extreme Air Park in Vancouver when the incident happened. Her father described the incident as a “bad bounce.” “She wasn’t getting up straight away, then she started screaming really loudly and I knew something was wrong,” he told CTV News.
It soon became clear that Maddie needed medical assistance. A member of the trampoline park’s staff brought an ice pack and did what they could to help the four-year-old. Then they waited for paramedics to whisk her away to the hospital.
Maddie received an operation on a broken leg and a fractured ankle. The pain was so intense that doctors were forced to give her ketamine and morphine to treat her.
The injury meant that Maddie would have to attend her first day at kindergarten in a wheelchair. While not blaming the park for the accident, Maddie’s parents were nevertheless less than impressed with the treatment offered to their daughter.
Villanueva told local media, “They had no care for her. No first aid kit, no place to go put her when she was getting hurt.” Charbonneau also suggested that no staff were trained to deliver first aid to her properly.
In an official statement released to the press, a spokesperson from the trampoline park answered the parents. They said, “Our team are First Aid Certified and we have a First Aid Room which includes a comprehensive first aid kit. The attending team member was certified in February of this year.”
Controversially, the park went one step further and blamed Charbonneau for causing his daughter’s injuries. It released video footage showing Charbonneau engaging in a “double bounce” with his daughter, causing her to fall. The “double bounce” is against the safety rules of the trampoline park.
In 2016 a study suggested that hospitalizations from incidents occurring in trampoline parks in the United States were 12 times more common than five years prior. Responding to this study, the International Association of Trampoline Parks claimed that injury rates remained “very low,” and safety is “always a priority.”
There is no official regulation on safety of trampoline parks, although there have been calls for this to change recently. The International Association of Trampoline Parks recommends that parks use adequate padding to protect users, as well as sufficient supervision. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics believes that children should completely avoid recreational use of trampolines.
Maddie’s injury is the third major incident to have occurred at an Extreme Air Park in recent times. Earlier in 2018, 46-year-old father Jay Greenwood sustained fatal injuries after performing acrobatics into a foam pit at the same branch of Extreme Air Park. Meanwhile, just a week before Maddie’s injury, a three-year-old boy was hurt after falling through the springs at the Richmond, British Columbia, branch of the park.
The mother of the three-year-old boy who was injured, Ravi Gill-Douglas, was also very critical of how staff at the park reacted. In a post on Facebook, she warned, “The facility’s mandate is not safety for their customers nor customer service. My son took a six-foot drop and we had to track down an employee to come help.” She continued, “As a mother this situation was traumatic and I do not want any other parent or anyone to go through this kind of incident.”
The post received hundreds of shares. Most of the comments were supportive of the notion. One commenter wrote, “I’m totally against these trampoline places now. I have heard way too many scary stories of injuries.” Another wrote, “I remember these indoor facilities. No control, loud and chaotic.”
The facility responded to accusations of negligence on this occasion as well, saying it accepted no blame. In a statement offered to the press, a spokesman said, “Prior to this surveillance shows that he was playing with the Velcro at the spring flap which prevents exposure of the springs. Our team acted quickly, the boy was retrieved, and our First Aid team assessed him.”
Gill-Douglas snapped back at this statement, accusing the staff at the facility of having no idea how to help. “No one at the front desk seemed to be able to help, have a sense of urgency or know what to do,” she said. Ultimately, another parent pulled back the Velcro and hoisted the child to safety. He was unharmed.
Gill-Douglas was not alone in having a say over whether trampoline parks should be regulated. Dr. Emily Newhouse, medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health, told Global News, “We’ve seen reports from our colleagues, both in our health authority, also around the province, that they’re seeing a significant number of injuries come out of trampoline parks.”
With this in mind, you would expect a few injuries with trampolines considering their nature. The International Association of Trampoline Parks states that there should be roughly one for every 10,000 jumpers, with 90 percent of injured parties being treated on site and released. However, the multiple accusations of poor action from the staff when children do get injured is something that may alarm other parents.
Calls for the industry to be regulated heated up after Jay Greenwood’s death. Now after these two injuries to minors in quick succession, these calls are growing louder than ever. It remains to be seen whether any official action is taken.
All official communications from Extreme Air Park have insisted that the park is completely safe if you follow the rules. Nevertheless, Michael Marti, owner of the Richmond branch, has said he’d be pleased for government regulations to be introduced. In a statement, he said, “I would welcome the opportunity [to] work with your government to develop comprehensive regulations that give the public confidence that, in addition to the hard work trampoline parks put into ensuring the safety of their guests, there is Provincial oversight into trampoline park safety as well.”