MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A popular way to let kids blow off steam and have fun could lead to a trip to the emergency room.
News Channel 3 investigators uncovered reports of increased accidents and injuries at indoor trampoline parks, along with what's behind the spike in numbers.
Jumping, flipping and dodging the occasional hit is part of what kids love about indoor, trampoline parks.
"They love the trampoline," said Jade Thompson of her children.
"Dodgeball, the basketball, I think that it`s just the fact that it`s free rein — running, jumping," said Amy Jordan of why her children enjoy the experience.
Lauren Allen said, "It`s a big draw, especially when it`s raining, there`s nothing to do."
However, with every flip, tumble or daring move comes a dangerous risk.
"I do worry about their safety a lot," Thompson said.
Safety should be a concern considering what WREG found.
Through open records, News Channel 3 uncovered reports showing a spike in accidents and injuries at trampoline parks across Tennessee.
"Anything can be dangerous if proper precautions aren't taken," Kim Jefferson said.
Jefferson is an Assistant Commissioner with the the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The agency's compliance division oversees and regulates amusement devices.
Records show a big jump in accidents with amusement devices over the past four years.
A closer look, though, reveals the majority of reports are related to trampoline parks, followed by inflatables, not zip lines or fair rides which tend to get more attention.
"The increase is due to the fact that we enforce the law as to more devices now," Jefferson explained.
Jefferson says the state has long required companies to report accidents, but now all sorts of devices, like inflatables, as well as trampoline parks are included.
Plus, companies can now be fined $300 per day for failing to report an accident within 24 hours.
"Anytime you're transported to the hospital or to a medical facility, companies are required to report that. Because of that, we receive more reports, even though they're minor reports," Jefferson said.
One of those reports in 2018 came from Memphis, where an inflatable went airborne at Dexter Elementary's field day and landed on a grandmother.
She was rushed to the hospital with an injured collarbone.
The company, K & M Bounce, didn't report the accident and state regulators fined the owner $2100.
The state also discovered K&M didn't have a permit.
WREG learned the company currently has a permit, but has yet to pay the fine.
The owner, Mark Maclin, told WREG he's planning to start paying the fine immediately.
A spokesperson for state regulators said it's been turned over to the Attorney General's office for collection.
Maclin said he wasn't at the field day event, and he still doesn't know how the inflatable got loose.
Broken arms, legs, and injured ankles accounted for many of the accidents reported in 2018.
There were just over 30 reported, most of them came from companies based in East Tennessee.
According to the reports, none of the accidents were due to a device malfunction, and in each case, they were quickly inspected and re-opened.
However, WREG noticed lots of accidents at the same parks, even days in a row.
News Channel 3 asked Jefferson, "Does that ever raise a red flag?"
Jefferson responded, "Well actually, it just depends. We do question the inspection reports. We can do that and we talk with the inspector, the third party inspector, just to verify that, that information is correct."
Dr. Derek Kelly is in pediatric orthopedics with Campbell Clinic and LeBonheur.
Kelly told WREG he doesn't allow his own kids on trampolines.
"I have two little girls, and they know when the trampoline's around, daddy just does not want them on there, 'cause I just see too many fractures."
He says while the popularity of indoor parks may be new, the reason for the injuries is not.
"The device is really the problem though. The trampoline, it creates a lot of force, there`s a lot of energy built up in that system and the pediatric skeleton just can't tolerate that kind of trauma."
Dr. Kelly did offer some advice for those who aren't ready to give up the trampoline experience.
"Try to limit the number of children involved and then try to keep the young kids away from the bigger kids."
Families can see whether a company has a valid permit before going to an amusement park, trampoline park or using a company that installs inflatables.
Tennessee relies on third party companies to inspect amusement devices. The state currently has three, safety compliance officers to review that information, and investigate problems or non-compliance if necessary.
All devices must have a permit to operate. In order to get a permit, an inspection must be conducted first.
These rules apply to fairs, zip lines and other businesses that house trampolines and inflatables or other amusement devices.
Businesses reporting accidents to the Amusement Devices Division in 2018
- Top Jump (Pigeon Forge)- 8
- Sevier Air Trampoline & Ninja Warrior Park (Sevierville) - 7
- Just Jump (Bristol/Johnson City)-5
- Jump Jam (Knoxville)-2
- Pope's Amusement Rides (Greenfield)-2
- Quantum Leap Trampoline Sports Arena (Johnson City)-2
- Goats on the Roof Coaster (Pigeon Forge)
- K&M Bounce (Olive Branch, MS/Memphis)
- Comet Bounce (Cleveland)
- Big Bounce Party Rentals (Fayetteville)
- Rail Runner (Gatlinburg)
- Adventure Works (White's Creek)