9 Investigates

9 Investigates: Calls for trampoline park regulations in North Carolina

HICKORY, N.C. — Grayson Huffman, 20, is learning how to get around on crutches, unable to put weight on his right foot for another month.

[ALSO READ: Father warns parents after son breaks both ankles at Hickory trampoline park]

A Saturday evening at Defy Hickory ended in a trip to the emergency room when Huffman jumped from a platform.

"I felt a snap as soon as I landed,” said Huffman.

He said the mat below wasn't fully inflated and didn't support him.

“I’ve never seen my bone like that before. It freaked me out so much,” he said.

Huffman broke his leg in two places, forcing doctors to attach his bones with metal screws.

“They said my ankle wasn't even connected anymore to my leg,” he said.

Huffman's injury happened less than a week after a 6-year-old suffered broken bones when he jumped from the same platform.

[ALSO READ: Trampolines are more dangerous than you think — Read the warnings, advice from experts]

Mark Loden, the boy’s father, told Eyewitness News anchor Allison Latos about the scary moment seeing his son in pain. He said he was worried his little boy had a broken back from the fall.

Josh Heath, a spokesperson for the parent company of Defy Hickory sent Channel 9 a statement saying, "In the event of an injury, we follow response protocols, and track incident data so we can continuously learn and innovate in the area of safety."

The company would not explain those safety protocols.

Company officials also told Channel 9 they perform frequent park and equipment inspections but wouldn't provide those records.

States with indoor trampoline park regulation:

  • Michigan
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana

States with proposed indoor trampoline regulation:

  • Virginia
  • Utah

Channel 9 learned there are several states that regulate trampoline parks or have proposed such action, but North Carolina is not one of them.

The Department of Labor said told Latos the Amusement Device Safety Act of North Carolina does not include trampolines.

The North Carolina Department of Labor's definition of Amusement device:

(a) The term "amusement device" shall mean any mechanical or structural device or attraction that carries or conveys or permits persons to walk along, around or over a fixed or restricted route or course or within a defined area including the entrances and exits thereto, for the purpose of giving such persons amusement, pleasure, thrills or excitement. This term shall not include any of the following:
…(15)      Playground equipment, including but not limited to soft contained play equipment, swings, seesaws, slides, stationary spring-mounted animal features, jungle gyms, rider-propelled merry-go-rounds, and trampolines.

Mark Loden said he believes 100 percent of trampoline parks should be regulated, and he wants to see change.

“Carowinds is regulated. Amusements parks are regulated. The fair is regulated,” he said.

He has already started calling lawmakers in Raleigh with his son's story, and said he plans to keep calling until a bill is introduced.

[ALSO READ: Statesville day care worker accused of assaulting toddler fired, owner says]

“Make sure the proper safety precautions are set in place, and if they're not, they have to answer to that or be shut down,” he said.

Huffman wants to see change, too, and said he will never go back to the trampoline park.

“They did give me a refund, but by that point I wasn't really caring about the refund,” said Huffman.

In the meantime, the nonprofit International Association of Trampoline Parks told Latos starting next year, businesses must get third-party inspections to become members. They're hoping that’s a safety check that will help parents decide which facilities to visit.

Full statement from Sky Zone Trampoline Park: 

“At Sky Zone, the safety of our Guests is our top priority. We are committed to ongoing evaluations to promote Guest safety. We invest in best-in-class equipment and take several measures to reduce these risks, such as daily equipment and area spot checks, and educate our Guests about safety by posting important safety rules and guidelines throughout our parks. Additionally, we station court monitors at all trampoline attractions to help enforce those rules and monitor guest activity. All incidents are analyzed internally and we consult with third party industry experts to continuously learn from them and create the safest environment possible for Guests.”

Full statement from company that owns Defy Hickory:

Guest safety is our top priority.  We take several measures to reduce the risks – just like any physical activity or sport -- and educate our guests about safety in our parks. 

  • All parks conduct frequent park and equipment inspections and most important safety rules and guidelines.  
  • Additionally, court monitors are stationed throughout the park to monitor guest activity. 
  • In the event of an injury, we follow response protocols, and track incident data so we can continuously learn and innovate in the area of safety. This includes supporting industry safety recommendations.

 Indoor recreational parks are one of the fastest growing entertainment categories, but not all recreational parks are the same. 

Guests and parents should look for parks that follow strict industry standards and have the following safety elements:

  • Equipment that complies with ASTM guidelines  
  • Equipment  (springs, straps, pads, trampolines) maintained regularly 
  • Safety rules posted throughout the park
  • Regularly trained staff on hand

 Note: the waiver is readily available online.

Note: we do not distribute our internal operations documents as these represent proprietary company information.