A broken neck. A fractured leg. A crushed kneecap.
Those injuries, and more, happened in the first seven weeks of business at an indoor trampoline park that promises visitors a “safe and fun experience.”
Since Get Air opened in mid-August at 330 S. Toole Ave., local emergency rooms and urgent-care centers have seen a spike in trampoline-related injuries.
The University of Arizona Medical Center’s emergency room typically sees three trampoline mishaps a month — and that number doubled in the park’s first month and could be higher for the second, said Dan Judkins, a UAMC injury epidemiologist. Judkins said he isn’t sure all those injuries occurred at Get Air, but injured jumpers keep showing up with sprains, cuts, fractures and concussions.
“Our trauma center is very concerned about trampoline-related injuries,” he said. “They can be extremely devastating, and younger kids are at higher risk. It’s just flat-out dangerous for anybody to be on a trampoline.”
Trampoline parks are a new craze in the Tucson area. Another new park, AZ Air Time Jump Center, is set to open this month at 3931 W. Costco Drive, near Thornydale and Orange Grove roads in Marana.
Visitors must sign waivers that include warnings and rules. Personal responsibility is the bottom line, said Get Air manager Alicia Durfee.
Get Air’s waiver says, in part, “Participants know, understand and acknowledge that the use of trampoline equipment constitutes an inherently risky recreational activity that may result in serious injury such as paralysis and death.”
AZ Air Time’s website says: “Just like skiing, skateboarding, football, cheerleading, and many other sports-type activities, jumping involves risk. People can and do get hurt. It is your responsibility to use the facilities in a safe manner.”
Visitors are encouraged to watch a safety video that explains the rules, she said. The video mentions the possibility of getting hurt several times. But during a recent visit, the music was often too loud to hear the three-minute safety video.
Among the most serious incidents at Get Air, a 20-year-old man broke his neck doing a flip into a pool of foam blocks. A 13-year-old girl doing a handstand on a trampoline broke teeth, severed her quadriceps and crushed her kneecap. And an 11-year-old boy broke his leg doing a jump with a twist.
While none of the families blames the park, they want others to pay more attention to the risks of jumping.
Becki Major took her daughter, Madison, to Get Air for her 13th birthday and didn’t give much thought to what could go wrong. But the park was crowded and the kids weren’t well-supervised, Major said. Almost immediately after arriving, Madison did a handstand and lost her balance when someone jumped next to her.
The teen has a lot of physical therapy ahead of her to restore the full range of motion in her leg, her mother said.
Before others take their kids there, Major wants them to be aware of what can happen. “It’s sad because people want to go and have fun,” she said.
Jeanne Kraft took her son, Jacob, 11, and family visiting from out of town to Get Air.
Within the first five minutes, Jacob landed badly after a jump and fractured his fibula. He was in a cast for three weeks.
Kraft said she signed the safety waiver and wasn’t concerned about safety until she noticed “the people supervising didn’t seem to do a whole lot of anything.”
A safety video plays constantly in the check-in area, but watching it is not mandatory. Kraft and her family were not asked to watch it, she said. That’s something she hopes will change: A quick, mandatory safety orientation could help prevent more injuries, she said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is concerned about trampoline risks, too. In a report last year the group recommended against all recreational trampoline use and said many parents don’t know about the risks.
Most trampoline injuries happen when multiple people jump together, which is something Get Air encourages with activities like bouncing dodgeball and slam-dunking.
The pediatrics group also said somersaults, flips and falls — which trampoline parks often allow as part of the fun — “put jumpers at increased risk of head and cervical-spine injury with potentially permanent and devastating consequences.” Get Air has signs prohibiting double- and triple-flips, and park rules ban somersaults.
Blake Haines, 20, did not heed that warning at Get Air early this month. He did triple flips into a pit of foam blocks for at least an hour, said his father, Bart Haines.
But that last time his head snapped back and he was paralyzed in the pit, his father said. A friend who thought he was joking grabbed him, realized he was hurt and called over staff members. They called 911.
Haines was in the intensive care unit at the UAMC for a week. Now he’s at a rehabilitation hospital in Phoenix.
The airplane mechanic and member of the Air National Guard is paralyzed from the upper chest down, but there is hope for recovery because he has some feeling in his toes, his father said. He’s started using a motorized wheelchair and can feed himself with some help.
Haines has been using trampolines since he was a little kid and felt comfortable on them, his father said.
Bart Haines said there’s a chance an accident will happen with any kind of physical activity, but it would be better if the Get Air staff reviewed rules with visitors and explained the possibility of serious injury.
“It’s new in town and it’s a place to have fun, and that’s great,” he said. “But people need to know the risks involved and to stay within their limits.”
Signs on the walls and partitions at Get Air say double- and triple-flips like the ones Haines was doing when he was injured are not allowed. But Durfee said staff may allow those stunts for skilled jumpers.
During an hourlong visit to Get Air recently, dozens of toddlers, small children, teenagers and parents bounced without incident. Single flips were common, even flips where jumpers landed on their backs. Jumpers were doing somersaults without any warnings from staff.
The safety video says jumping from one trampoline to another is not allowed, but that also happened, even while staff workers were watching.
Staff members are trained in first aid, and they constantly watch and remind people of the rules, Durfee said. “But it is up to them to be responsible for their own safety,” she said.
The UAMC doctor has a stronger suggestion.
“For parents in particular,” Judkins said, “the message is: There is no safe way to put a kid on a trampoline.”