Whistler tops trampoline accidents in Vancouver Coastal Health region

Vancouver Coastal Health is asking parents to “air” on the side of caution when it comes to backyard trampolines, offering suggestions to keep kids injury free this summer.

Whistler has the highest number of trampoline-related injuries in the region, along with North Vancouver and Richmond, according to the health organization.

“Compared to the number of children participating in trampolining compared to other outdoor activities, we see a far greater percentage of injuries,” said Dr. Erik Swartz, head of pediatrics at Vancouver Coastal Health. “For example, we see a lot of biking injuries too, but far more kids are biking than trampolining.”

Trampoline injuries reported to the BC Children’s Hospital are recorded in a database tracked by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

During 2012-13 year there were 271 trampoline-related injuries treated at the hospital’s emergency department.

Swartz said the most common injuries seen from trampolining are ankle sprains. Also common are fractures, which can vary in seriousness.

Rare but most severe are spinal injuries, which can cause permanent damage that can change a child’s life. In April last year a home trampoline accident in Gibsons left a four-year-old in a coma for three weeks at the BC Children’s Hospital.

“When you have a spinal injury, those are devastating things that can cause lifetime neurological damage and disability,” said Swartz.
Swartz said that young gymnasts — who are being trained with a coach and spotter and safety equipment — are in a different category.

He said that trampoline injuries were once seasonal, most common in the summer. Doctors are now seeing injuries year around, which Swartz attributes to the rise of indoor trampoline parks.

The mandatory waiver at Whistler’s indoor trampoline park, Whistler Bounce Academy, notes that the sport “involves many risks, dangers and hazards.”

Owner John Dunbar said that while trampolining does involve risks, especially at home in a backyard, the gym tries to take precautions.

That includes having a coach on site to give advice and encourage kids to safely explore their goals.

“We have a coach helping, steering them in a safer direction, instead of just winging it,” he said. “Every kid wants to do a double-front flip, but instead of that, coaches try and work on skill building and control. Sure, there are lots of injuries on trampolines. It can be dangerous, but it’s a matter of making your setup as safe as possible. With fun comes risk, but you do try and do anything you can to limit that risk potential.”

Dunbar said that Whistler’s active culture — with kids admiring athletes who incorporate aerial tricks into their skiing, mountain biking and snowboarding — makes locals particularly ambitious when it comes to flips and tricks.

While Swartz warns that no trampoline is perfectly safe, the campaign by Vancouver Coastal Health doesn’t call for a blanket ban on the jumping apparatuses.

Instead, it includes suggestions on how to reduce the risks if children and parents do decide to have a backyard trampoline.

“Everything is risky. But if you do want to have your children trampolining, then there are certain things you can do,” said Swartz.

Those tips include having only one child jumping at a time, and installing a closed safety net that surrounds the trampoline. And however tempting it may be to show off, it’s important that use is limited to jumping and not flips and somersaults.

“The parents are trying to do a good thing — trying to encourage physical activity and outdoor activity, which is great and exactly what we’re trying to promote, but maybe not in that way,” said Swartz.