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Jump in trampoline park injuries sparks calls for mandatory standard

Just before the trampoline park closed for the day, Codie Walton wanted to squeeze in one more trick to dazzle his friends – a double back flip into the foam pit.

But it went horribly wrong. His knee rebounded into his head, knocking him out as well as three of his adult front teeth.

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"The teenage staff let the kids do any tricks they wanted no matter how dangerous and they gave us no safety warnings and had no formal training to know what to do," said his mother Melinda.

"I've spent thousands of dollars on a denture plate, which he has to wear until he is 25 when he can get permanent implants."

Ms Walton, however, counts Codie as one of the luckier ones. A new study has found 487 children and adolescents aged 0 to 19 presented to emergency departments with injuries sustained at trampoline parks in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia between 2012 and 2017.

The true picture is likely to be far worse, as the Sydney University study did not include information from other states or about adults.

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The number of parks has soared past 80 in the past six years, but with lawsuits, catastrophic spinal injuries and even deaths overseas clouding the industry's future, experts are urgently calling for a mandatory Australian Standard to keep users safe.

"A draft standard is undergoing review, but it may never become mandatory because unfortunately sometimes it takes significant incidences and events for that to happen," said lead author Dr Lisa Sharwood, an injury epidemiologist from University of Sydney.

"While there's none in existence, the most urgent thing is for park operators to adhere to basic safety standards."

Only one-fifth of all trampoline park operators are part of the Australian Trampoline Park Association (ATPA), which requires members to adhere to its Code of Practice.

The vast majority, including Xtreme, Just Jump and scandal-plagued Flip Out, have chosen not to join.

The study, published on Thursday in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, found 15 per cent of the children were admitted to hospital, nearly half the injuries were fractures and a third sprains and strains, and a third involved the foot and ankle.

Dr Susan Adams, a paediatric surgeon at Sydney Children’s Hospital, described the admission rate as "relatively high" and said the equal male-female ratio indicated an issue with the design and running of the parks.

 

"I've seen broken necks and spinal cord injuries, and while not common, they're tragic and horrific," she said. "The relative seriousness of the injuries is striking."

Fairfax Media has spoken to a former employee who described equipment as of "poor design and poor quality" and said he saw serious injuries at least once a month.

"Before we had weight restrictions, we had a larger man jump from a raised platform and land on his bottom, and he basically fell through and hit the concrete and shattered his tailbone," said the former employee who asked not to be identified.

An ATPA spokeswoman said it was committed to keeping customers safe and was working with Standards Australia to finalise the voluntary standard for indoor trampoline parks.

"We encourage as many trampoline parks and industry manufacturers to join ATPA as possible and to become an accredited member, with the ATPA believing it is the safest and most responsible option for people looking to have fun at a trampoline park," she said.

A spokesperson for Federal Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar said the government took all incidents of injury to consumers "extremely seriously".

"The government is aware that Standards Australia is working with industry and medical professionals to develop new guidance for safe operation of trampoline parks," she said.

ATPA members include Air Factory, Bounce INC, Hangtime, Jump & Climb, Sky Zone and Supatramp.

Flip Out did not respond to a request for comment.