Debbie Nicholson

15-fold increase in the number of inflatable bouncer injuries in emergency departments

For the last 16 years inflatable bouncers and moonwalks have been featured in many water parks, amusement parks, and restaurants along with being the attraction at many children’s parties or a permanent fixture in the back yard. Kids bounce and jump till their hearts content with hidden dangers lurking from these inflatables.

View slideshow: Injury and death reported from inflatables

A new study reveals that national safety guidelines should be in place for these inflatable toys that are sending children to the hospital emergency departments.

Researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital that works globally to reduce injury-related pediatric death and disability examined children’s injuries associated to inflatable bouncers such as bounce house and moonwalk. Their findings are alarming and are causing concern over these inflatables that had sent more than thirty children daily or one child every forty-five minutes to the emergency departments to receive treatment for injuries due to these bouncers. Between 1995 and 2010, there was a 15-fold increase of injuries related to these inflatables in children younger than 18 years.

Information for this study had been obtained from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS).

The researchers found the most common injuries came from fractures (28%) and strains or sprains (27%). Approximately one in five injuries were to the head and neck (19%), which researchers say this demonstrates that use of these products can pose serious risks.

Falls had accounted for 43% of the most common injury followed by stunts and collisions. The majority of the injuries had occurred at either a recreational setting (44%) or at home (38%).

Researchers call attention to the fact that the injury patterns for inflatable bouncers are similar to that of trampolines however; there are national safety guidelines in place for trampolines but no guidelines currently exist for these bouncers.

Dr. Gary A. Smith, MD, DrPH, Director, Center for Injury Research and Policy stated in a release from Nationwide Children’s Hospital "The findings from this study show that there has been an alarming increase in the number of injuries from inflatable bouncers.” "It is time for us to take action to prevent these injuries. Ensuring that parents are aware of the potential risks, improving surveillance of the injuries, developing national safety guidelines and improving bouncer design are the first steps."

Dr. Smith, who also is a professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, says “The medical and public health community has yet to provide recommendations on the safe use of inflatable bouncers.” "The growing epidemic of inflatable bouncer injuries make it clear that it is time to do so.

Until national safety guidelines are in place, parents should consider the risks before allowing their child to use an inflatable bouncer. If parents allow their child to use an inflatable bouncer, they should consider limiting use to children 6 years of age and older, requiring that an adult be present to supervise while the bouncer is in use and allowing only one child on the bouncer at a time. If more than one child will be on the bouncer at the same time, the children should be approximately of the same age and size.

This is the first study to use a nationally representative sample to examine injuries associated with inflatable bouncer-related injuries that were treated in U.S. emergency departments.

The study, available online November 26, 2012 and published in the December 2012 print issue of Pediatrics,

Injury prevention tips and proper use of inflatable bouncers is available online at the Nationwide Children’s website.

In a retrospective case series researchers from Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles, sought to describe skeletal injuries related to the use of inflatable bouncers and to determine possible risk factors for injury.

The records of all children seen in the Level I trauma center and subsequent fracture clinic for an injury from an inflatable bouncer from October 2002 to March 2007 were reviewed. Parents were contacted by telephone survey to provide information about activity, number of children in the bouncer, presence of adult supervision, and age difference of the children who were in the device at the time the injury occurred.

A total of 4,367 children were seen in the emergency room during the study review was 49 cases of trauma from using the bouncer.

The most commonly injured area was the elbow with supracondylar humerus fracture being the most common single injury (22%) with most injuries being minor fractures with only one open fracture and only 14% requiring manipulation of a deformity.

The authors conclude that inflatable bouncers can cause serious orthopedic injuries. Children playing in the bouncer should be placed in small groups according to their size.

The study appeared in the AAP journal Grand Rounds Vol. 21 No. 1 January 2009.

In a commentary for the above study Dr. Richard M. Schwend, MD, FAAP, Pediatrics Orthopedics at Children’s Mercy Hospital, Kansas City had written in part “Similar to the epidemiology of trampoline injuries, collision and falling out of the bouncer are the most common mechanisms of musculoskeletal injury associated with inflatable bouncers.” In 1999 the AAP advised parents against home trampoline use.

In 2001, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 1,993 injuries associated with inflatable bouncers. In 2004, the last year that data has been analyzed, the estimated total was 4,900 (US Product Safety Commission 2005). As inflatable bouncers have few safety regulations the number of injuries is likely to continue to increase.

Video: Fox News 13 Injured Bounce House