Trampoline Injuries – Preventable?
The trampoline was patented in 1945 by George Nissen and first used by military pilots as a training device to simulate being inverted. Gymnastics then began using the trampoline as a training device that gave gymnasts extra time in the air to work on gymnastic skills. Eventually, the trampoline was recognized as a gymnastics apparatus and became an event in gymnastics competition. As trampoline use in organized gymnastics grew in popularity, so did the frequency of serious injuries. It got so bad, that gymnastics programs using trampolines began to run the risk of having their insurance coverage cancelled. Then in the mid-1980s the United States Gymnastics Federation (USGF) instituted reforms that have virtually eliminated serious trampoline injuries in gymnastics to this day.
In a nutshell, USGF created a certification program for coaches so that they would be qualified to properly instruct trampoline skills and follow recognized safety protocols. The certified coaches would perform: (1) Skill Assessment – is the gymnast physically and/or mentally capable of performing a skill safely; (2) Progressive Instruction – a recognized building-block of skill sets are taught so that the gymnast becomes proficient and confident in fundamental trampoline jumping before attempting the more advanced and dangerous skills; (3) Supervision – qualified coaches monitor the jumpers at all times and will physically spot the jumper when the more advanced skills are being performed.
The basic trampoline safety practices followed in gymnastics are: (1) Stay in Control – Gymnasts are taught the basics of how to stop, land and fall. Low or no bounce teaching methods are used to teach trampoline skills in progression, i.e. master basic skills before moving on to more advanced skills; (2) One person on a trampoline at a time; (3) Jump in the center of the trampoline, jump vertically, do not jump onto or from the trampoline – walk to the center of the trampoline to begin jumping and walk off the trampoline when finished; (4) No flips unless approved by the coach.
If trampoline injuries are preventable in gymnastics, then why can’t trampoline parks stop injuries from happening? First, the design of trampoline courts, unique to trampoline parks, is a misuse of the trampoline: it encourages lateral jumping and landing on non-uniform surfaces other than the trampoline center; the trampoline is used as a landing device; other jumpers can pass their energy through the trampoline court; and other jumpers can land on the same trampoline causing a double jump or collision. Second, the court attendants are not trained in fundamental trampoline jumping, let alone being certified gymnastics coaches, and are prohibited by the trampoline parks from instructing patrons on how to jump. Third, skills such as: trampoline-to-trampoline jumping, wall trampoline jumping, and flips are recognized as “advanced maneuvers … which increase the risk of injury.” And yet, the trampoline parks continue to encourage the public to attempt these advanced maneuvers in their marketing and their “legal” position that it is the jumper’s responsibility to not exceed their skill level (even where children are concerned). For over a decade, gymnastics and safety experts have repeatedly told the trampoline park owners at safety meetings, trade conferences and in injury lawsuits that the design and operation of trampoline parks is defective and unsafe. The trampoline parks have consistently refused to: separate the trampolines; require a minimum age; offer professional skill assessment, instruction and supervision or ban flips and other advanced maneuvers. The trampoline parks believe that taking any of these steps to lessen the risk of injury would hurt revenue.