The Perils of Foam (Yes, Really)

The Perils of Foam (Yes, Really)

Of all the dangerous places to be, a room full of foam doesn’t likely enter your mind. If someone were to say, “Little Tyler’s birthday party is at the trampoline/foam pit park,” it’s likely no one would RSVP with, “Sorry, Sarah’s not allowed in foam pits or on trampolines. Too risky.” But, it looks like Mom’s been right all along. It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt.

Made of polyurethane foam blocks, foam pits began in gymnastics to help young athletes make soft landings when learning new gymnastic skills. They have been gaining in popularity and are now used as cushioning at a wide variety of places such as BMX, motorcycle, FMX, skateboard and trampoline parks. Some indoor entertainment centers feature the foam blocks in numerous activities including under balance bridges, under rope ladders, at the end of slides and for freestyle jumping. Although billed as a way to have fun and practice safely, injuries are on the rise, especially serious injuries to the spine or neck.

Accidents are happening everywhere, including right here in Georgia. Last November, Union City Eagles coach Jonathan Magwood injured his neck after jumping into a foam pit at RockBridge Adventures in Peachtree City. In front of his 10-year-old-and-under football team, he broke two vertebrae and was left paralyzed. Earlier this month, a teenager suffered a gruesome foot injury at the Augusta-based AirStrike, the seventh victim needing an ambulance at the park since it opened in May.

Despite their popularity, there are no established standards or requirements set by any organization for trampoline parks and their corresponding foam pits.

Consequently, there are lapses in safety and maintenance procedures that dramatically increase the risk of serious injury, including overcrowding, poor supervision and foam pits that are improperly built (too shallow, not enough cubes, inadequate side padding, etc.). Because foam cubes will compress and compact over time, they need to be “fluffed” regularly and damaged ones removed and replaced in order to keep customers safe.

Currently, only Arizona, Colorado and Mich­igan have legislation requiring trampoline park owners to follow design standards drafted by ASTM International to regulate the installation and maintenance of trampoline courts. Seeking to provide minimum operating standards, Georgia introduced a bill in February named after Jonathan Magwood, but it failed to pass. A revised version may be presented in the future since there are a number of trampoline parks in the state, including Sky Zone, Aerofit and Gravitopia, with more opening all the time.

If you do choose to visit a trampoline park and jump into a foam pit, here are a few guidelines that can help:

  • Do not try tricks above your skill set.
  • Don’t bury yourself in the pit, as others may jump on you without knowing.
  • Exit the pit quickly.
  • Never dive head first.
  • Remove all items from pockets.
  • Try to land on your back – never on your knees, stomach or face.
  • Wear a helmet.

If you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the attorneys at The Mann Law Firm. Even though you signed a waiver of liability, you may still be able to hold trampoline parks and foam pit operators accountable for negligence. Come talk to us — we are ready to provide you with a free and confidential initial consultation. Contact us by calling (478) 742-3381 in Macon, Dublin, Warner Robbins or Milledgeville, or through our online form.