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Bouncing Toward Injury

Lately, it seems like every flyer advertising a carnival, festival, community benefit, church picnic or grand opening promises a bounce house alongside more standard expectations like refreshments and “fun.” Made in all shapes, sizes, and colors, these increasingly popular devices for children's entertainment don’t come risk-free. In fact, one pediatric emergency physician in Ohio found himself treating so many children with injuries from inflatable bounce houses that he launched the first study to determine just how many bouncer-related injuries were occurring nationwide. And the results may make you rethink renting one for little Susie’s birthday party.

The doctor, who also happened to be the director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy, gathered data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and discovered that the number of inflatable bouncer-related injuries rose 1,500 percent between 1995 and 2010, with the rate of injuries more than doubling from just 2008 to 2010. That’s 64,657 children treated in ERs for fractures, sprains, strains, head and neck injuries, and other injuries in that 15-year period. Astonishingly, the numbers show that in 2010, on average, 31 children were treated in emergency departments each day.

The study concluded that more than half of the injured children were ages 6 to 12 and more than a third were under the age of 5. The most common injuries were to the arms and legs, with falls causing almost half the injuries, followed by stunts and collisions. It is important to realize that the staggering statistics include only children who were treated in emergency rooms. Thus, the numbers of injured children are even higher once you take into account those who were hurt but not treated in ERs or who were treated at home.

Despite this disturbing data, there are no national safety guidelines for inflatable bouncers. One of the challenges in regulating the bounce-house industry is that there are several vendor possibilities. Some are used in traveling carnivals, some are in permanent indoor spaces and others are rented for home use. Many homeowners’ insurance policies list bounce houses as an exclusion, so before renting one, review your coverage. If bounce houses are excluded from your policy, you might be able to purchase special-events coverage, which, while costly, is cheap in comparison to medical or legal bills in the event of an injury.

If you do choose to allow your children to play on an inflatable bouncer, the Child Injury Prevention Alliance recommends that:

  • All bounce houses should be properly anchored. If renting, read the manual or request a trained operator.
  • Children of different age groups/sizes should not be allowed to play at the same time.
  • Children under 6 should not be allowed.
  • Rough play, flips and somersaults should not be allowed.
  • Adult supervision should be required at all times, particularly to help children get in and out of a bounce house safely and to police what’s going on inside.
  • Children should take off their shoes, glasses, and jewelry, and remove sharp objects from their pockets before entering.
  • Children should be discouraged from bouncing near the walls or the entrance/exit.
  • Bounce houses should not be used when winds are more than 20 miles per hour (Just this past Memorial Day, two city-sponsored bounce houses in Fort Lauderdale were uprooted by a waterspout, injuring the three children who were inside).

If you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the attorneys at Stabinski & Funt, P.A. Even if you signed a waiver of liability, you may still be able to hold bounce house operators, manufacturers or assemblers accountable for negligence. If you wish to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage you to contact us today by calling 305-643-3100 or filling out a free case evaluation form.

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