Bounce house safety: Are kids bouncing their way to the hospital?

Bouncers — bounce houses, bouncy castles and other inflatables — are incredibly popular for childrens’ birthday parties. Boys and girls love them because they’re lots of fun, and parents often like that the kids can burn off some energy while having a blast.

Alas, the magic of jumping up and down may come with a cost: Safety. Statistics show that about every 45 minutes, one child bounces him or herself into the Emergency Room.


Jump, bounce, ow? Bounce house safety

A 2012 study by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital took a close look at pediatric injuries associated with inflatable bouncers, such as bounce houses and moonwalks.

Researchers found that from 1995 to 2010 there was a 15-fold increase in the number of inflatable bouncer-related injuries that were treated in US emergency departments among children younger than 18 years of age. In 2010 alone, more than 30 children per day, or about one child every 45 minutes, were treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries associated with inflatable bouncers.

The study, published in the December 2012 print issue of Pediatrics, found that the most common injuries were:

  • fractures (28 percent)
  • strains or sprains (27 percent)
  • harm to head and neck (19 percent)

>> The most common types of broken bones in children

bounce house safetyWhen it comes to how kids are most typically injured, falls (43 percent) were the most common cause of injury, followed by stunts and collisions. The majority of the injuries occurred either in a recreational setting (44 percent) or at home (38 percent).

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“The findings from this study show that there has been an alarming increase in the number of injuries from inflatable bouncers,” says Gary A Smith, MD, DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

“It is time for us to take action to prevent these injuries. Ensuring that parents are aware of the potential risks, improving surveillance of the injuries, developing national safety guidelines and improving bouncer design are the first steps.”

Inflatable bouncer safety

The study authors point out that the injury patterns for inflatable bouncers and trampolines are very similar, and although there are national safety guidelines for trampoline use, no such guidelines exist for inflatable bouncers.

“The medical and public health community has yet to provide recommendations on the safe use of inflatable bouncers,” says Dr Smith, also a professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “The growing epidemic of inflatable bouncer injuries make it clear that it is time to do so.”

The The Child Injury Prevention Alliance (CIPA) offers these injury prevention tips:

7 tips for safer bouncer use
  1. Limit bouncer use to children 6 years of age and older.
  2. Only allow a bouncer to be used when an adult trained on safe bouncer use is present.
  3. The safest way to use a bouncer is to have only one child on it at a time.
  4. If more than one child will be on the bouncer at the same time, make sure that the children are about the same age and size (weight).
  5. Take off shoes, eyeglasses and jewelry and remove all sharp objects from your pockets before entering the bouncer.
  6. No rough play, tumbling, wrestling or flips. Stay away from the entrance or exit and the sides or walls of the bouncer while you are inside of it.
  7. If the bouncer begins to lose air, stop play and carefully exit the bouncer.
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