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Spate of trampoline accidents in Japan spark call for safety measures

Trampolines are seen at a facility in Osaka Prefecture on March 18, 2021. (Mainichi/Koichi Kirino)

OSAKA -- Serious injuries from trampoline accidents in Japan have sparked calls for the national government to create safety guidelines.

    According to a survey conducted by the Consumer Affairs Agency, about 170 severe injuries, including bone dislocations and bone fractures, occurred over the five-year period up until September 2020 at leisure facilities across the country featuring mainly trampolines. While some facilities display the number of recent injuries to alert visitors, one doctor commented, "It's insufficient for users alone to be careful. The national government should instruct facility operators to take thorough safety measures."

    In mid-March, when a Mainichi Shimbun reporter visited a leisure facility in Osaka Prefecture with about 50 trampolines, a whiteboard at the reception read "One injury this week, six injuries this month (two ambulances), two injuries last month (one ambulance)." Notices on the wall, meanwhile, described the details of the injuries, such as, "Right ankle bone fracture due to landing mistake after somersault on Dec. 13."

    While the president of the company operating the facility acknowledged that many people lose their balance upon landing and get injured, they explained: "We tell visitors upon admission to follow the rules, such as not making dangerous jumps, and let them know we don't take responsibility for injuries or accidents, and have them sign commitment forms." While the facility installed trampolines five years ago and has observers, it said some 30 people have been seriously injured.

    A survey of 28 facilities in Japan mainly featuring trampolines conducted by the Consumer Affairs Agency in September 2020 revealed that accidents had occurred at all 24 facilities that responded. Over the five-year survey period, there were 103 bone dislocations, 63 bone fractures, 53 cuts or lacerated wounds and 45 sprains or bruises. The agency made the survey results public in December and called on facility visitors not to suddenly jump high and to observe the rule of one trampoline per person, but this was merely a heads-up to users, not a requirement imposed on operators.

    According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees instructing and supervising leisure facilities, it formulated safety guidelines for facilities in commercial establishments such as shopping malls in June 2016, but its purpose was to prevent accidents on trampolines for children, and did not consider trampolines that adults would use. The president at the facility operator in Osaka Prefecture said, "The number of facilities like this has been increasing in recent years, and there's no standardized safety manual because an industry association doesn't exist."

    A bulletin board displays recent injury records at a leisure facility in Osaka Prefecture on March 18, 2021. (Mainichi/Koichi Kirino)

    A doctor at a general hospital where many injured people at the Osaka facility are taken pointed out: "I have examined nearly 30 patients, and the number of injured young adults in their 20s or so was higher than the number of children. Quite a few people are likely to suffer aftereffects after breaking their ankles, elbows or lower backs."

    The physician also insisted: "As people are suffering serious injuries even though they have followed rules such as one trampoline per person, we're getting to a point where it wouldn't be a surprise to see facilities being asked to voluntarily refrain from operating. The national government should take safety measures such as creating guidelines before a fatal accident occurs."

    Masato Ishida, a public relations commission member at the Japan Gymnastics Association, said: "Serious accidents can be reduced if people can land safely. I think there are possible safety measures such as facility employees teaching beginners for a few minutes how to jump safely and how to land well using their knees."

    (Japanese original by Koichi Kirino, Osaka City News Department, and Koki Matsumoto, Osaka Science & Environment News Department)

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