Warning for Knees to Stay Clear of Trampolines

Fun Bouncing at a Trampoline Park

No matter what city we are visiting, my son seeks out the closest indoor trampoline park, pleadingly asking that we visit. We live in a small town that doesn’t have such things, so I allow him these experiences whenever we leave town. He is an only child, so he often begs me to join in the fun. I actually enjoy bouncing around on trampolines. There is just something about it that makes me smile and giggle. The kid inside of me comes out. It’s a great bonding experience with my son.

A video of one of our trips to a trampoline park in Rapid City, South Dakota.

The Last Trampoline Park

Rotting Compost Heap

Rotting Compost Heap Next to the Trampoline Park

We were in Salt Lake City visiting with family and friends. As usual, my son requested a visit to the nearest trampoline park. My sister, and two young nephews decided to join. When we pulled into the facility’s parking lot and opened the door the smell of rotting garbage permeated our nostrils. Yes, there was literally rotting garbage in the air. The adjoining facility to the trampoline park is a composting facility. The day prior, they did a little stirring. The warning was in the air. The smell of decay should have sent us running, but we continued, determined to plug our noses and bounce the smell away.

The trampoline park’s indoor odor had similar intensity to the facility next door, but we continued forward. After some debate and coaxing from the young boys, I decided to bounce. I signed the hold-harmless waiver for myself and my son, lied about my age, and placed the grippy socks on my feet. Oh yeah, I jokingly lied about my age. As I was filling out the form I thought “I feel 36 today.” I rarely lie about my age. I’m not sure why I chose to do it on that day.

No Lie Goes Unpunished

The bouncing was very fun. My son, my nephews, and myself were having a tremendous time running around, dodging balls, jumping into foam pits, navigating through obstacles, and bonding. I did notice that there were no other 36+ mothers bouncing along with their children. I soon found out why.

Acrobatics at a Trampoline Park

Acrobatics at a Trampoline Park

We had only 5 minutes left on our bouncing time and I felt the need to use every last minute. After all, we paid for it. As my nephew and I were enjoying out last minutes of bounce time, I showed off a bit by doing a quasi-split in the air. As my feet came down and hit the trampoline, my right knee contorted, and it felt like rubber bands snapping under the knee cap. I crashed to the mat in agony and I mean agony. My sister saw the look on my face and she knew something was really wrong.

I had just finished my First Aid/CPR refresher and it is amazing how your brain just snaps into pragmatic mode in lieu of all the excruciating pain. I told my sister to get someone that works there. She did. As I lay writhing in pain, the nice trampoline park employee filled out an incident report and I signed it. Good thing I filled out that hold-harmless form. Yeah, I jokingly said to the trampoline park employee, “I bet you fill out a lot of these forms, “ she replied laughing assuring me it was a couple times a day.

They offered me a wheel chair to get me to the car. Of course I protested the use of a wheel chair, preferring to hobble on one leg and be supported by my son on the other side. My excuse was that wheel chairs are for old people. I’m not old, so I don’t need a wheel chair no matter how bad I screwed up my knee.

As I was hobbling out the door, they handed me an ice pack and a coupon for a free hour of bouncing to be used when my twisted knee gets untwisted. No pain could keep me from laughing at that irony.

Now I know why no other mom’s were bouncing on the trampolines.

The Urgent Care Visit

Urgent Care Sign

A Sunday Trip to a Local Urgent Care

Thanks to the aid of my good friend Siri, we were able to find a medical center that was open on a Sunday. Let me tell you, it’s not as easy as you think to find a medical center open on a Sunday in Salt Lake City. Fortunately for me, people in Salt Lake City don’t get injured on Sundays and I was seen immediately. I was the only one in the waiting room.

A very confident doctor saw me, contorted my yet to be swollen knee in many different directions, and concluded that there was likely nothing wrong with it other than a potential MCL sprain. There were no pain killers prescribed and he sent me on my merry way telling me to do a follow up at home if things don’t improve.

Things Didn’t Improve

The next morning my knee was the size of a Wilson Soccer Ball. This was way too much swelling for ibuprofen and ice to handle, but I gave it a try. I went on with the family vacation and even managed a trip to the local amusement park (a funny story and concept for a whole other article).

At Home, I saw my fabulous friend and physical therapist who provided ice, pressure, and support. After four weeks of hobbling around, sleepless nights, pissed off, in pain, and a general bad mood, she convinced me to see an orthopedic doctor and get an MRI.

Begrudgingly, I entered the doctor’s office, convinced it was a waste of time. The next morning I entered the MRI center, convinced that too was a waste of time. Still, in my head, I really thought that given enough time, my knee would heal, and I would be back to normal activities.

MRI Machine

MRI Machine

The MRI Results

I was in the field working, when I got a text message from my PT saying she received the results but wanted to make sure I was in a very nice calming environment. I knew instantly, “oh shit, this is not good.”

The MRI did confirm that I had an MCL sprain as predicted by the doctor in Salt Lake City. That wasn’t all. In addition to the MCL sprain, I suffered a full tear of my ACL. I was also diagnosed with a large unstable medial meniscal tear with a smaller but unstable lateral meniscal tear. To top it off I had a tear of the medial patellofemoral retinaculum and a partial tear of the femorofibular ligament. There was a lot of googling going on after I got those results. I may be a scientist but femorofibular is not part of my scientific vernacular.

Diagram of an ACL Tear

Diagram of an ACL Tear

I later received a copy of the MRI report and I have to admit, I look pretty bad on paper. I’m not sure, but I think it’s pretty amazing that I can manage to hobble. I am currently in line to meet with the “best” orthopedic surgeon in my town. Of course, in a town this size, there isn’t much competition.

The Moral of the Story

I’ve learned a lot from my twisted knee trampoline event. I’ve learned that:

  1. When you smell rotting trash, leave, and never come back
  2. Never lie about your age
  3. Sometimes you need a wheel chair when you really screw up your knee
  4. You shouldn’t trust a doctor that works the Sunday shift in Salt Lake City. I’m guessing that wasn’t exactly the A-team on staff.
  5. Having an MRI, while a strange experience, is not a waste of time.
  6. But most of all I learned, middle aged me shouldn’t be jumping on trampolines. Save the knees, pain, and huge medical bills, and watch the kids bounce from the sidelines.

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About Melissa Schaar

I am a scientist, teacher, student, friend, and mom. I am on a journey to my ultimate vitality. That journey includes living to the fullest, loving everyday, laughing whenever possible, and a constant state of learning.

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