I-Team exposes risk of trampolining craze

Defy Gravity is one of the most popular new activities in town, but some say it's also one of the most dangerous.
November 7, 2013 8:33:23 PM PST
Defy Gravity is one of the most popular new activities in town, but some say it's also one of the most dangerous. Trampoline arenas are big for kids' birthday parties, and, unfortunately, can lead to serious injuries.

A Chapel Hill teenager is recovering from a broken neck she suffered at one, and doctors tell the ABC11 I-Team it's a troubling trend.

Catherine Bryan is a 13-year-old softball player, who just wants to get back on the field. For now, however, she's taking it easy recovering from a serious injury that nearly left her paralyzed.

"I didn't know what was going on," said Bryan. "I thought I was going to be paralyzed for the rest of my life."

Catherine suffered a crushed vertebrae at the Defy Gravity trampoline arena in RTP. It was her first visit to the popular indoor playground.

"I saw this guy do a back flip and I thought 'Oh, I'm going to try this' and I'd never done this before," said Bryan.

When she flipped off the trampoline, she landed head first in a foam pit breaking her neck.

"It was darkness like I couldn't get up," said Bryan. "I was like 'get up, get up,' but I was paralyzed so I couldn't get up."

Paramedics rushed Catherine from Defy Gravity to Duke Hospital.

"She broke the vertebral body called a tear drop fracture and so the vertebral body shattered and pushed bone back into the spinal canal and it bruised the spinal cord," said Duke Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. William Richardson.

Catherine had surgery the next day and now has a plate and screws in her neck. It's one of many injuries local doctors see from trampolines.

"They're considered an attractive nuisance," said Richardson. "They look like they're fun. Kids want to get on."

Richardson says trampoline injuries have tripled over the last 10 years with 100,000 people landing in hospitals every year -- most of them children.  He says he's seeing more Defy Gravity jumpers becoming Duke patients.

"Our experience is since it is opened, that the number of injuries that we see have gone up significantly," said Richardson. "We know of two cervical injures and we know of multiple lower extremity injuries."

However, Defy Gravity manager, Chad Posthumus, says when you consider the number of jumpers who come in and out of the arena, the risks are actually very low.

"Our injury rate is significantly less than one percent," said Posthumus. "Percentage wise, the exact I can't give you, but it's less than one percent in regards to serious injuries.

He refers to Defy Gravity as an "extreme sport" where people often push the limits.

"People come to trampoline parks to do something they've never done before," said Posthumus. "You're not going to just jump up and down while you're here. There is a foam pit here which encourages you to try new things, but you're always going to try to go above and beyond what your skill set is."

It's something Catherine wants to warn other kids not to do.

She's now walking, but still feels some burning in her hands, and has a long recovery ahead.

"We don't exactly know what the future holds at this point," said Anne Bryan, Catherine's mom. "She's still very much in her healing process."

But she's vowing to get back on the softball field, and to stay off trampolines.

"If you do go there like please, please be safe," said Catherine. "Don't do anything too crazy or anything. I don't want anybody to go through what I had to go though."

Defy Gravity managers say they stress safety to all jumpers before each session, and all are required to sign a liability waiver.

They are so popular that they have plans for a new north Raleigh location in the spring of 2014 that's twice the size of the RTP facility.

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