Inflatable Bounce House Injury Rates On the Rise: Study

Inflatable bounce houses, which are increasingly used at festivals, kid’s birthday parties and indoor recreation facilities, may pose a higher risk of injury than most parents realize.

According to a study published this week in the medical journal Pediatrics, the number of inflatable bouncer injuries is on the rise and growing fast.

Researchers compiled information from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, involving patients under 17 years of age who were treated in emergency rooms for injuries suffered on inflatable bouncers from 1990 through 2010. The study found a 15-fold increase in the number and rate of bounce house injuries among children.

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Nearly 65,000 children were injured during the time period studied and treated in hospital emergency rooms. That number is equivalent to five children injured annually per 100,000, and the problems have increased more rapidly in recent years.

Researchers found the annual injury rate more than doubled between 2008 and 2010; that is one child injured by a bounce house related event nationwide every 46 minutes in 2010.

The ubiquitous inflatable bounce house, once a novelty that was often only found at fairs and public gatherings, are now seen and used more widely, including private birthday parties and at an increasing number of indoor inflatable bouncer playgrounds.

Inflatable bouncers are now seen everywhere from private parties to car dealerships to community events. The vinyl constructed inflatable device is powered by a large industrial strength blower to push air underneath the surface, allowing children to bounce and play inside the enclosed structure.

Although no deaths have been reported in connection with the bounce houses, about three percent of the children who sustained an injury required hospitalization or further hospital observation for a minimum of 24 hours.

The most common injuries sustained were fractures, strains and sprains to the lower portion of the body. The majority of the injuries were seen among young male users, who averaged an age of 7 years old.

Although many people suspect that larger devices seen at public facilities are safe, nearly 44 percent of the injuries reported were sustained at a sports or recreation facility, such as indoor bounce house play yards which are opening up all over the country.

“This increase, along with similarities to trampoline-related injuries, underscores the need for guidelines for safer bouncer usage and improvements in bouncer design to prevent these injuries among children,” said researchers.

Researchers also urge parents who continue to use the bounce houses to follow certain safety tips to ensure children use the bouncers uninjured:

  • Ensure children playing in the bounce house have adequate adult supervision at all times.
  • Ensure only children who are approximately the same age, size and weight play together at the same time to ensure larger children do not inadvertently injure smaller children.
  • Limit the use of bouncers to children age six years and older.
  • Warn children not to employ dangerous stunts such as flips, somersaults and rough housing while using the bouncer.
  • Limit the number of children using the bouncer at one time.
  • Ensure there is a soft area or adequate padding surrounding the bounce house to prevent falls and injuries on hard surfaces.
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