Spotting as a safety precaution whilst trampolining

Spotting and attendance at side of the trampoline

This page has been prompted in part by recent guidance received from British Gymnastics on the subject of spotting which aligns closely with advice normally provided by BTC coaches.  It also addresses the requirement for performers to be attentive throughout a session – not only when they are ‘on the bed’.  Unless explicitly excused performers should be always be doing one of the following:

  • trampolining;
  • spotting;
  • conditioning;
  • writing up their diary;
  • standing nearby listening attentively to coaching activity.

Advice on spotting

The following was reported in the December 2006 edition of GymNews and is relevant to all members:

Spotting has been a controversial subject for some time.  The committee have produced new guidelines which are included below:

Spotting is the use of suitably sized and trained participants (or others), placed around the trampoline to assist trampolinists who may fall from the trampoline.  The practice of ’spotting’ has been a requirement since the inception of the sport, but injuries to spotters and various changes within the sport have prompted a review of the guidelines for the use of spotters.  Trampolining is attracting an ever-increasing number of participants, from recreational bouncers to international performers — the needs of whom differ considerably.

The majority of injuries occur on the bed of the trampoline, due (for whatever reason), to poor landing and the following rebound, but accidents and injuries do occur due to people falling from the trampoline.  There is evidence which suggests that participants fall, or depart more frequently from the ends of the trampoline.

Reducing the risk through good practice

Experience has shown that the adoption of good coaching practice and the creation of a safe environment can greatly reduce the risk of injury or incidents.

The important good practice guidelines include:

  • Ensuring good physical and mental preparation
  • The use of safe, gradual, progressive skills to teach new elements
  • Allowing time to develop consistency and confidence — consolidation
  • Developing a wide vocabulary of foundation skills upon which more advanced skills can be safely built
  • Developing the participants’ awareness of their body and position in space

Appropriate and safe trampoline set ups

The risk of injury can be reduced by providing a safe environment and the following guidelines are recommended:

(a) Providing Protection to the ends of the trampoline
  • For multi-trampoline set-ups, place trampolines end on and cover the adjacent ends with a safety mat
  • Position ‘end decks’ or similar constructions at the open ends of the trampoline and cover with a purpose made mat or conventional safety mat
  • Provide additional non-slip matting on the floor at the end of the trampoline or behind the end decks.  Ideally, the floor matting at the end of the trampoline would be 1.2 metres width minimum, and a minimum depth of 25mm
(b) Providing Protection at the sides of the trampoline
  • For multi-trampoline set-ups, place the trampolines side by side and cover the adjacent sides with suitable matting or padding
  • It is recommended that non-slip matting of minimum width of 1 metre and minimum depth of 25mm and suitable density and absorbency be used to cover the area at the sides and corners of the trampoline
  • If spotters are to be used at the sides of the trampoline, the floor matting should provide a stable base for them to stand on

Note 1: When placing trampolines end on, or side by side, the height of the trampolines should be the same — they should be ’jacked up’ on blocks to ensure that the beds are of the same height.

Note 2: When using floor matting, ensure that the matting will not slip.  Place thicker mats on non-slip thinner mats, to reduce the risk of the mats slipping.

(c) Consideration for the use of spotters

Once the above guidelines have been implemented to reduce the frequency or risk of falls, the use of spotters as a line of defence should be considered.

Factors which make spotting less effective include: the height of the trampoline, the height of jumping, the advanced nature of the skills being performed and the weight of the trampolinist

Factors which may not make spotting a more effective solution include: the height, weight and level of fitness of the spotter and their trampoline experience, It is difficult to train spotters to be more effective without placing both themselves and the performers at risk

(d) General Guidance to spotters
  • Instruction to pay attention to the trampolinist at all times when spotting.  This is essential for their own safety, whether they are assisting a faller or not
  • Instruction to move out of the way of a falling trampolinist if they feel unsure or unable to assist i.e. a trampolinist falling with great momentum.  Often, an experienced trampolinist is best placed to make adjustments to minimise the impact of a fall, without placing the spotter at risk
  • If the coach feels the spotter is capable of assisting a falling performer, a simple explanation and demonstration of assistance should include:
    • Advice to reach as high as possible, to contact the chest or shoulders if possible
    • Make contact as early as possible, if this will reduce the momentum of the falling trampolinist
    • Advice to only attempt to slow down the performer

Note: Experienced, suitably large and strong coaches may occasionally be able to provide greater, more effective assistance.

Groups of less experienced/novice participants

Where participants are not suitable for providing assistance as spotters, it is recommended that they are occupied and kept warm by another coach or assistant coach, doing other relevant activities.  In this situation, adults may be trained to act as spotters, but should there be no spotters available, matting must be provided along the side of the trampoline (1 m wide) and at the end of the trampoline (1.2m wide).  The matting must be at least 25mm thick and of appropriate density and absorbency.

Groups of Advanced Trampolinists

Where trampolinists jump at a height at which the coaches assess the spotters to be at more risk than their ability to assist justifies, they may be advised to move out of the way of a falling trampolinist.  They should keep warm by doing alternative, relevant exercises away from the trampoline.  In situations where effective spotting is deemed not to be feasible, end decks and floor matting should be provided alongside the trampoline (1 m wide) and around the corners and behind the end decks (1 .2m wide).

Summary to Spotting

The provision of a safe environment and the adherence to good coaching practice should minimise the risk of accidents.  The guidelines described above will serve to reduce the consequences of a trampolinist falling from the trampoline.  It is the responsibility of the coach to risk assess each situation and ensure that appropriate and reasonable precautions are implemented.