Study shows risk of injury posed by children’s inflatable ‘bounce houses’

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by Eric Pearson

Inflatable bounce houses are becoming one of the more popular attractions for birthday parties, carnivals, church picnics and county fairs. But along with the fun they bring comes an underappreciated risk of serious injury.

One pediatric emergency physician in Columbus, Ohio, began wondering about the rate of injuries after treating many children who were hurt while playing in inflatable bounce houses. So Dr. Gary Smith from Nationwide Children’s Hospital launched the first study to find out how many inflatable bounce house injuries occurred in the United States.

Smith and his team analyzed records from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (“NEISS”), which is operated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. NEISS collects patient information for every emergency visit involving an injury associated with consumer products. According to its data, the number of inflatable bounce house injuries rose 1,500% between 1995 and 2010.

In the last two years of the study, from 2008 to 2010, the rate of injuries more than doubled, according to the study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. In 2010 alone, 31 children were treated in emergency departments each day on average, according to the report. “That’s about one child every 45 minutes,” says Smith, who is the director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

More than half of the injured children were in the 6- to 12-year-old age group; more than a third were under the age of 5. Arm and leg injuries were the most common injuries. The youngest children, those under 5, were more likely to have fractures, and teenagers were more likely to sustain sprains and strains. Nearly 1 in 5 children, or 18.5%, had head and neck injuries.

Smith believes if these numbers were statistics for an infectious disease, it would be considered a public health emergency. “This is an emerging hazard, something that should be taken seriously, but something that can be prevented,” he says. Smith says the pattern of injuries from inflatable bounce houses is similar to injuries sustained from trampoline use. But while there are national safety guidelines for trampolines, there are none for inflatable bouncers.

Smith believes that much of what has been learned about trampoline use can be applied to inflatable bounce houses. Smith and other experts have the following advice for parents:

  • Do not let children under the age of 6 play in these inflatable devices;
  • Only allow children of similar age and size to play inside bounce houses at the same time;
  • Do not allow rough horseplay, flips and somersaults, which tend to lead to the most serious injuries;
  • Always have an adult present when these devices are in use — but not inside with the children;
  • Make sure the bounce house is tightly secured to the ground;
  • Shut down bounce houses immediately if winds exceed 15 mph, as high winds can cause bounce houses to become unmoored from the ground and thrown into the air.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson has experience representing families whose children have been injured in bounce house accidents. If your child has been injured in a bounce house, you may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. Contact our firm at 877-446-9001 and tell us what happened, or you may send us an email by completing the free case evaluation form located on this page.