Birthday parties and sleepovers—ensuring more fun with less risk

Sleepovers and birthday parties at gymnastic facilities are popular ways for kids to celebrate a special occasion. Without proper planning, however, a festive event can turn unpleasant quickly.

Consider the following example of what can go wrong: During unsupervised roughhousing at a sleepover, one child was severely hurt and suffered a displaced clavicle fracture. Now there’s an experience that’s memorable, but for all the wrong reasons!

Risk cannot be eliminated, but it can be controlled and prevented. The gym owners may have prevented the accident if they had followed these recommendations:

  • Require signed waivers from all participants.
    • Consult with your attorney on wording, laws, and your state’s statute of limitations.
    • List specific activities on the waiver and clearly identify the equipment that is off limits.
    • Keep the signed waivers for two years or more.
  • Inspect your gym before and during the party. Remove any trip and fall hazards. Ensure floor and mat surfaces are clean and dry. Tape down mat edges. Lock or cordon off areas and equipment that are off-limits.
  • Designate a location to congregate at the start of the event. Account for all participants, set the ground rules, review the agenda, and specify off-limits areas and equipment. It’s also helpful to list these rules on a document that participants and parents sign. Have someone available to review this information withany late arrivals.
  • Maintain proper supervision ratios. At Markel, we require a minimum student-to-adult instructor ratio of 8:1. Ensure that no instructor or parent is left alone with children. Do frequent head counts to account for every child attending the event. If children are unaccounted for, stop the event until they are located. For additional guidelines to support gymnastics supervision consult the Gymnastics Risk Management Safety Course Handbook, Chapter 5: Supervision and Instruction.
  • Explain your supervision policy to parents. Be sure to include the disciplinary actions that will result when kids don’t comply and include this information in your list of rules.
  • Watch for mischievous adults. Being young at heart is great, but acting on it can lead to very serious injuries. Make sure all parents are notified of the rules. Parents should not be allowed to use trampolines, regardless of their previous gymnastics experience. Keeping parents off the gymnastics floor helps to reduce the likelihood of them getting injured.
  • Keep activities simple. Don’t let a skilled student display highly technical activities—this can create the temptation for others to follow, likely resulting in an injury.
  • Be prepared for emergencies. Have a plan to contact medical personnel to treat injuries such as concussions, dislocations, elbow contusions, wrist or finger sprains, fractures, and neck or spinal column injuries.

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments. Please contact us or your attorney if you have any questions.

For safety or risk management questions or suggestions, please contact Markel.

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