Fear of Bouncing
Bounce houses, those indoor activity centers filled with various inflatable bouncers, are wildly popular with parents of elementary school children, especially as sites for birthday parties. First of all, because the activities are indoors, you don’t have to worry about a Plan B in case the weather turns cold and rainy – always a risk with pool parties. Second, the party has time limits; the bounce houses are typically rented by the hour. Finally, many bounce houses are full service party places. Not only are there additional rooms off to the side where kids can enjoy pizza and cake before opening presents, but also some of the houses themselves even provide the pizza and cake. When the party’s over, just pack up the presents and leave the mess behind.
What’s not to like about that?
Well, according to a report published today in the journal Pediatrics, there were 15 times more injuries tokids on inflatable bouncers from 1995 to 2010. The data includes injuries from bounce houses and from freestanding inflatables found at carnivals or even church picnics or even school field days. Here are some attention-grabbing statistics gathered from the U.S.Consumer Product Safety Commission:
•In 2010 about 30 children a day were treated for injuries in hospital emergency rooms
•In 1995 there were 702 injuries to kids; in 2010 there were 11,3ll
•Injuries resulting from falls were most common followed by stunts and collisions
•28% of kids were treated for fractures
•27% had sprains or strains
•19% had injuries to heads or neck
I’ve actually attended a few parties at bouncing facilities, and rarely did they end without a child being injured. My biggest fear is always for the smaller children who are sometimes vulnerable to injury simply from the weight of bigger kids (I’ve even seen parents jump on some of the inflatables despite signs prohibiting individuals over a certain number of pounds). Supervision from employees can be weak; supervision from parents non-existent. Quoted in the Pittsburg Post Gazette, Dr. Gary Smith of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio says, “When children of different sizes bounce close to each other …, the mat may be not be ready to take their weight when they come down. Instead, it may launch them in a different direction, causing them to fall on their arm or atop each other.”
By comparison, injuries from trampolines have declined over the last few years; however, national safety guidelines are already in place for trampolines. The Pediatrics report calls for similar guidelines for inflatable bouncers.
In the meantime, if your school is considering renting in inflatable bouncer for a fun fair or other event, you should be aware of the risk of injury to children and take the necessary supervisory precautions. Kids have an enormous amount of fun on inflatables and they certainly provide a great deal of exercise. But like so many school activities, it’s all about competent supervision.