Injuries from inflatable bouncers, such as birthday bounce houses, increased more than 15 times in a 15-year span, with fractures the most common outcome, a study found.
About a quarter of the injuries reported from 1995-2010 were broken bones, according to research published today in the journal Pediatrics. Another quarter were strains or sprains. Just under half of the injuries were caused by falls.
The study also found that about 31 children were treated daily by emergency rooms, or one child every 46 minutes. No one knows why injuries have risen, the authors said. More kids may be playing on the bouncers, or there may have been design changes that make them more risky. The injury patterns were similar to those seen with trampolines, according to the study.
“I’ve been doing this over 30 years and it’s rare we see an increase in injury like this,” said Gary Smith, one of the study authors and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. “A fifteen-fold increase is unheard of.”
Kids are probably using the bouncers more, leading to increased numbers of injuries, Smith said in a telephone interview. The data on bouncer sales and use wasn’t accurate enough to determine for sure, he said.
Boys were more likely to be injured than girls. About 45 percent of the injuries in today’s study were to girls, the authors wrote. Emergency room visits peaked during the summer.
About 43 percent of the injuries were caused by falls. About 16 percent of accidents were due to collisions. Other mechanisms of injury included the bounce house blowing away, hitting poles, or stunts.
For safe use of the inflatable bouncers, parents should restrict them to children ages 6 and older, Smith said. There should be an adult present to supervise and discourage rough- housing and stunts.
More than one child on the bouncer at a time increases the risk of injury, Smith said. Because the bouncers are often deployed at social events like birthday parties, if more than one child is on the bouncer, parents should make sure kids are roughly the same age and size to limit injuries.
“If we want kids to continue to be active, we need to make sure they do activities safely,” Smith said.
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