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The Sky HIgh Dilemma: Kids Love It But Doctors Say No

Our writer ponders this Concord jump center and trampolines in general after doctors warn of their dangers for kids.

If you have children of any age, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Sky High Sports, the popular new “trampoline center” in Concord.

One of eight West Coast locations, the Concord center has multiple trampoline surfaces that literally allow people to “bounce off the walls.”

Sounds pretty awesome, right?

I recently took my children, ages 7 and 5, to Sky High with some friends. They did, indeed, have a great time. Even I was tempted to bounce. My kids bounced and played trampoline dodge ball and were completely spent after an hour. They asked when we could return with their younger cousin.

Given our good experience at Sky High, I was surprised to hear from another friend that her kids’ pediatrician had warned them to stay away from Sky High and trampolines in general.

Apparently this doctor had treated too many trampoline-related injuries since Sky High opened its doors. Because I had read and signed Sky High’s liability waiver before my kids jumped (and also watched the episode of Community in which Chevy Chase’s character breaks both legs in a particularly exaggerated trampoline accident), I understood there was a risk of bodily harm. I just hadn’t heard of injuries among my kids’ peers.

The backlash against trampolines and similar equipment (inflatable bounce houses) is evident in articles, reviews and message board postings all over the Internet. But how have local parents responded to the controversy? I asked a few parents with kids near my kids’ ages about their experiences at Sky High.

“I have heard the stories about the injuries,” says Walnut Creek mom Ally Thorndike. “It is a concern in the back of my mind. It hasn’t stopped us from going, but it gives me pause. I think injuries can and will happen, unfortunately.”

Stefanie Shanley, also a parent of two elementary-school aged children, became aware of the injuries after taking her children to Sky High several times. “I have cautious kids,” she says. “Because of that, I purposely have only gone to Sky High when it is not busy. Even so, in dodge ball, both of my kids have been hit in the face hard with a ball. I do understand how kids would get injured there, especially when the place is busy. If there weren't days or times when it's not crowded, I probably wouldn't take my kids there.”

Steven Cavalier, a pediatrician at Kaiser Medical Center in Walnut Creek, recommends against recreational trampolines in any setting.

“Consistent with American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations, I am afraid I do not endorse the use of trampolines under almost any circumstances, with very rare exceptions under direct supervision by athletic trainers and/or physical therapists,” he says. “They are just too dangerous and no amount of supervision can prevent the potential for serious injury.”

According to the AAP, the most common trampoline-related injuries are sprains and strains, involved in 40 percent of injuries. Other injuries include fractures, (30 percent), contusions or abrasions (13 percent), and lacerations (11 percent). Unspecified injuries accounted for the remaining six percent of trampoline-related injuries. (Although the AAP reaffirmed its stance on trampoline use in 2006, this data is nearly 20 years old, having been collected from 1991-1996.)

Jerry Raymond, who co-founded Sky High Sports with his brother Ron, is aware of the concern regarding injuries sustained by Sky High customers. He says most injuries tend to be sprained ankles, and all injuries are logged by Sky High employees.

“Our numbers over the last several years have shown that we are safer than most other extreme sports,” he says. “The percentage of injuries is lower than skiing, football and soccer. The misconception comes from the total number of injuries versus number of customers. For example, any number of injuries can sound like a big number. Until you look at attendance of hundreds of thousands, the number sounds small. Most people miss the part that we have had almost 300,000 people jump at our Concord facility since last May.”

So what is a parent to do with all of this conflicting information? I sympathize with parents whose children have been injured while participating in activities that are touted as being fun and healthy.

But my personal feeling is that almost any activity my kids choose involves some amount of risk. There is certainly a risk of injury at places like Sky High—but skiing, boogie boarding, horseback riding, roller-skating and even the elementary school playground are potentially hazardous.

Growing up, I had a friend who—I am not kidding—had broken or injured nearly every major body part by the time we graduated from high school. Despite her propensity for suffering injuries in almost any situation, she participated in three varsity-level sports. She and her parents understood that accidents happen, even to the most active kids or experienced athletes.

Rather than wrap my kids in bubble wrap, I’d rather teach them proper safety procedures related to their chosen activities.

“Understand the risk,” says Raymond. “This is an extreme sport. Injury can happen even if you and I do everything right.

"Second, follow the rules," he added. "Our rules are there for your benefit. Double bouncing is probably the most dangerous trampoline activity, so we don't allow it. Third, stay within your limits. Kids like to sometimes try crazy stuff before they have worked up to it. My son can do some amazing tricks on the trampoline, but he didn't do them on the first day. He built up to it. Take it slow and get comfortable. Almost none of our injuries are from experienced jumpers.”

Like Shanley, I avoid Sky High at peak times, such as weekends and school holidays, when it tends to be packed with kids of all ages—many of whom are much bigger than my own kids. I was pleased to note, when we were there, that the facility did have a special area reserved for toddlers and preschoolers. This makes me feel more comfortable about taking my preschool-aged nephew to Sky High.

As for my own kids, they are fairly cautious. Now that I am aware of the types of injuries they might sustain while playing on trampolines, I am more cautious, too—but not to the point that I will turn down a playdate or invitation to a birthday party at Sky High.

Have your kids been injured at Sky High or while participating in other recreational activities? Has this made you more cautious about their participation in activities? Let us know. 

Julie May 11, 2011 at 08:34 PM
I took my three children to Sky High. Once. My son broke his ankle in three places. He was not being crazy. He was following the rules. The John Muir ER tech who casted him and the Orthopedic Surgeon from Children's both said they see way too many children from Sky High. Our orthopedic surgeon said the problem isn't just the number of injuries, it is the severity. He usually sees complicated compound fractures. He says that in good conscience, Sky High should just close down. The owner of Sky High says "this is an extreme sport" but the atmosphere and safety precautions at this establishment do not reflect the true risk parents and children are taking here.
jim November 18, 2011 at 07:27 PM
I am a national level trampoline coach. i coach anything from competitive, rec classes to birthday partys and public jump. the way they run this is insane it well only be a matter of time before somebody gets a serious injury. most people dont understand how easy it is to break an arm or leg if somebody doesnt know the proper progressions. this is something we stress at our club. i personally have broken my femur in three spots that left me in the hospital for 9 weeks, doing a pretty intermidiate level trick. trampoline can be a very safe sport as long it is coached and run safely, and from what i have seen from this club is the total opposite
Lesly Elenes March 31, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Wow! I took our 2 boys 7/9 to sky high in Camarillo CA and 15 min after my youngest son (who has mild autism) broke his ankle in 3 places- they took our number down at this place- but still haven't heard from them! They must be too busy trying to contact all the "injured list" Whe we got to the ER, the DR said "let me guess you went to Sky High? They seemed to be very upset at this place!! Well one thing I noticed there are too many kids and not enough supervision! I'm not saying its their faul or that it's a terrible place- it's just surprising how many Dr's have told me that place is very dangerouse! and it really is!
Christine Mitchell April 14, 2012 at 02:41 PM
We went there Thursday (Concord) and after 30 minutes my daughter broke her ankle - which we thought was a sprain at first. She was simply jumping up and down - not off the sides, or flips, etc. She landed on her foot wrong and her ankle rolled, and snap! On a scale of 1-10, I would rate the staff a 5 for how they handled it. They also filled out a form and said they would contact me in a few days to check on her. We will see if they do, but not that it really matters. When we went to the doctor I said, 'We were at Sky High..." and the nurse said, "say no more". She said they see A LOT of injuries from Sky High. Another friend of ours broke her wrist there (they also thought it was a sprain at first). At the very least, if you think your child gets a sprain there, I'd go to the doctor in case it is broken. I think we tend to think it is a sprain rather than a break because they are not on hard surfaces.
Sonya T. March 04, 2013 at 07:20 AM
My kids have jumped at Sky High many times over the past two years. We were at the Woodland Hills location on Saturday with friends who were there for the first time. Before our friends arrived we saw a young girl being carried out of the facility to awaiting paramedics with what appeared to be a broken leg. The bone looked as it were sticking out from underneath her skin - it looked pretty awful. We jumped anyway but were definitely more watchful over our kids.

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