County ‘jumps’ on trampoline gyms

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The Utah County Health Department has determined that “jumping on trampolines is not safe” after reviewing a string of injuries from jump gyms since 2009. The department proposed regulations this summer that have angered some jump gym owners.

Owners and managers were especially up in arms about one line in the proposal: “No somersaults or flips.”

Logan Ward is one of my BYU students and Utah residents that enjoy outings to jump gyms. (Photo by Chris Bunker)
Logan Ward is one of my BYU students and Utah residents that enjoy outings to jump gyms. (Photo by Chris Bunker)

If the proposals pass, the regulations would “drastically change the experience of customers,” said Aaron Cobabde, owner of Get Air Hang Time.

Lance Madigan, spokesman for the Utah County Department of Health, said concerned physicians at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center approached the department with cases of serious injuries the jump gyms were turning out.

UVRMC has tracked jump gym injuries dating back to 2009. From June 2009 to October 2012, there were 57 injuries in Utah County jump gyms. Of those injuries, 52 occurred after April 2011.

“What you’re dealing with is not your typical backyard trampolines,” Madigan said. “These are high power, industrial trampolines that can be easily misused if people aren’t educated in how to use them.”

Officials at the UVRMC asked the health department to look at safety regulations of the facilities and the first aid training of jump gym employees.

“We need to figure out if there really is a problem, as UVRMC says, or if it’s not as bad as it sounds, as the jumping gym owners say,” Madigan said.

Provo resident Kim Holman ruptured his knee, tore two tendons and dislocated his tibia at Get Air Hang Time earlier this month. According to Holman, the employees staffed at that time were “kids” in their early 20s offering “piggy back rides” to his car.

Holman, at the county’s health board meeting this month, asked that requirements be set for handling injured patrons and for the kind of medical equipment that needs to be on hand.

Aaron Cobabe, owner of Get Air Hang Time, stated that his employees were at Holman’s side within the minute, followed injury procedure and offered to called 911, which Holman declined due to lack of insurance.

In his jump gym, all of Cobabe’s employees are trained in first aid. Get Air Hang Time checks their equipment on a regular basis and has “a safety video, signs everywhere, rules on the board,” which include no diving, no double bouncing and only one person in the foam pit at a time.

“Our first step is making sure people know the risks,” Cobabe said.

Cobabe said the industry’s major injury rate is 0.07 per thousand, a lower rate than most popular sports.

“Death or paralysis is very rare in trampoline parks,” he said. “We haven’t had any injuries related to doing flips or to having more than one person on a trampoline. … You have to understand there are risks, and there are greater risks if you don’t follow the rules.”

Each gym in the county has a waiver that customers must sign listing out the possible injuries associated with jump gyms.

Misty Uribe, general manager of Lowes Xtreme Air Sports, doesn’t believe the proposal will “shut anyone down,” but she’s still worried the Utah County Health Department will overstep its bounds.

“We’re just concerned if those recommendations (regarding somersaults and flips) become requirements,” Uribe said.

Uribe also called into question how serious injuries are defined.

“What does ‘serious’ mean? They need to clarify. A broken bone?” she asked.

According to Uribe, only one broken bone has been reported during the last 50,000 or so visits to Lowes Xtreme Air Sports.

“It just seems unfair that they’re targeting us,” Uribe said. “Hospitals are seeing only the injuries, but they don’t see out of how many people go in and out totally fine.”

Small adjustments have been made to the original proposal since it was made, according to Madigan. A second review will be held Sept. 2 at the regularly scheduled Board of Health meeting. The public is welcome to attend, comment and make suggestions.

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