Fifteen-Fold Increase in Bouncy House Injuries
In this latest study, scientists at the Center for Injury Research and Policy, Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio, looked at the records of almost 65,000 children and noted a 15-fold increase in injuries from 1990 to 2010. Even more alarming was the finding that injuries from bouncy house have doubled in the past two years alone.
Children At Risk of Bouncy House Injuries
Meghan C. Thompson, BA, and colleagues, write “Bouncer-related injury patterns identified in this study were similar to those described for trampolines.” The pattern is that older children tend to suffer less upper extremity injuries and fractures and more lower-extremity injuries. More than half (54%) of the reported injuries involved children between the ages of 6 and 12, with 0-5 year-olds accounting for some 35.8% and teenagers up to 18 making up the other 10.2%.
Boys and Girls Suffer Different Injuries
As well as age differences in injuries on bouncy houses, there were gender differences, as boys were more likely to suffer injuries (54.6% vs. 45.4%). The types of injuries differed too, with concussions/closed head injuries 2.49 times more likely to happen to boys than to girls using bouncy castles. Lacerations occurred 2.41 times more in boys than girls, the relative risk of head/neck injuries was 1.37 for boys, and face injuries 1.76 times more common for boys. Girls suffered proportionally more lower extremity injuries, such as ankle injuries, with a relative risk of 1.39.
Head and Neck Injuries on Bouncy Houses
Serious head and neck injuries on bouncy houses could result in spinal cord damage, paralysis and even death, although no fatalities were noted in this study. More of the injuries occurred at a sports or recreational facility than at the child’s home or home of a friend or relative. Those children treated in the emergency department were mostly discharged or left against medical advice, with just 3.4% of those injured requiring hospitalization. Observation for twenty-four hours was deemed appropriate in some cases, mostly those involving fractures.
Trampolines More Dangerous than Bouncy Houses
Given that 11.311 injuries were reported in 2010 related to bouncy houses, compared to 702 in 1995, there are calls for more robust safety guidelines to be issued over the use of such equipment. The rate of injuries for trampolines remains higher at 31.9 per 100,000 compared to 5.28 for bouncy houses, but the latter rate is rising fast. At 2010 levels there were 31 injuries reported each day in the US, working out to a bouncy house injury every 46 minutes.
Common Bouncy House Injuries
Fractures were most common (27.5%), followed by strains and sprains (27.3%). Extremities were most often injured but head and neck trauma accounted for 18.5% of injuries and a further 9.3% to the face. The most common cause of injuries on bouncy houses occurred due to the child falling (43.3%) but some injuries were due to collisions with other children, being pushed or pulled or as a result of another child falling. Such knowledge can help policy makers issue guidance on improving the safety of bouncy houses, such as limiting the number of children using the bouncy house simultaneously. This was also noted in the research on trampoline use and injuries.
Outlawing Bouncy Houses
The guidance issued by the AAP on trampoline use noted that they are only recommended as part of a structured training programme but bouncy houses are clearly not part of such a training regime. Despite similar injury patterns it is unlikely that these popular features of children’s parties will be outlawed entirely and the onus is on manufacturers to provide safety guidance for users.
Safe Bouncy House Use
Parents of children using bouncy houses may be alarmed to hear of the rapid increase in injuries over the past few years but may take heart in learning that most injuries are related to multiple children bouncing at once. This may help parties remain injury-free under parental supervision. Whenever a fall occurs and neck or head trauma is suspected it is important not to move the child but to call for emergency medical assistance. Bouncy houses may look danger-free but fractures, lacerations, strains, sprains and serious nerve injuries are possible.
Thompson, M.C., Chounthirath, T., Xiang, H., Smith, G.A., Pediatric Inflatable Bouncer-Related Injuries in the United States, 1990-2010, Pediatrics; originally published online November 26, 2012. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-0473)
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