9 Investigates

9 investigates: Reports of traumatic injuries mount at trampoline parks

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Channel 9 is investigating the serious injuries some people in the Charlotte area have suffered at local trampoline parks, including broken bones and torn ligaments.

Kelli Kelley has two energetic little boys, but it's been hard taking care of them since September. A family outing to Defy Hickory ended in excruciating pain when she tore her ACL jumping on a trampoline.

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

"The pop was so loud that I felt like the whole facility should have heard it," Kelley said. "It was worse than any pain I've had, and I birthed two children."

Kelley couldn't walk for months, had knee surgery, and is still undergoing physical therapy. She hasn't been able to work or enjoy her passion of riding horses -- it could be eight months before she's back in the saddle.

She's not the only one who's been injured at Defy Hickory.

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

Mark Loden, 6, has both legs wrapped in casts and is in a wheelchair. He broke both of his heels in January at Defy Hickory after jumping off a platform.

"It felt like it hurt, like it broke," said Loden. "I couldn't even move."

The boy’s father showed Channel 9 pictures he took of the mat that his son landed on. He said it wasn't inflated but that the area was not roped off.

"There was nobody there, so I just jumped off," the little boy said.

"I'm still angry about it," said Loden's father. "I'm hurt and concerned for his well-being, but I'm still mad about it."

Before jumping at Defy Hickory, or practically any other trampoline park, visitors or their parents must sign a waiver giving up their rights to sue "for any injury, including paralysis or death, caused in whole or in part by the negligence or fault of CT Hickory, including any of its agents, employees and equipment."

Charlotte attorney Tommy Odom settled a 2014 lawsuit against an indoor trampoline park in Pineville after his client was injured there. He doesn't think the waivers adequately educate people about the dangers.

"It appears to us that the warnings that they say to them in these documents, not sufficient, they're hard to read and hard to understand," said Odom.

A spokesperson for Defy Hickory's parent company sent WSOC the following statement:

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.

Anchor Allison Latos contacted three companies that own trampoline parks in the Charlotte area, asking how many visitors have been hurt at their facilities.

Not one would comment -- so Latos asked paramedics.

In Mecklenburg County, MEDIC responded to indoor trampoline parks 88 times between January 2016 and November 2018. The majority of those calls were for what paramedics consider "traumatic injuries" like broken bones or twisted knees.

Catawba County EMS responded to Defy Hickory 11 times from March to December of last year and most of those were also for traumatic injuries.

Kelley said when her ACL tore, she crawled to the edge of the trampoline, unable to walk.

"There wasn't even a wheelchair at the facility," she said.

Kelley worries even more people could get hurt.

"If you get hurt at a facility like this, chances are, you're not going to be walking out," she said.