Jump smart: bouncer-inflated injuries on the rise

Hospital injury prevention specialists, inflatable operators share strategies for safe enjoyment of inflatables.

A new study by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital shows an increase in inflatable bouncer-related injuries among children.

According to the study, from 1995 to 2010, there was a 15-fold increase in the amount of inflatable bouncer-related injuries treated in U.S. emergency departments for children younger than 18 years old. In 2010, more than 30 kids each day were treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries related to inflatable bouncers, the study said.

Fractures and strains or sprains were the most common kinds of injuries, and about one in five injuries were to the head and neck, according to the report.

The study — available online now and published in the December print issue of the journal “Pediatrics” — notes that the injury patterns for inflatable bouncers and trampolines are similar, and while there are national safety guidelines for trampoline use, no similar guidelines are in place for inflatable bouncers.

We talked to area hospitals and companies that rent inflatable bouncers, to learn more about how this issue affects children in our region and what families can do to prevent injuries at home if they own an inflatable or are considering one as a holiday gift as well as at inflatable indoor gyms.

Hospital perspective

Representatives from local children’s hospitals say they have treated some patients for inflatable bouncer-related injuries, and the numbers are growing.

Dayton Children’s Medical Center’s emergency department saw nearly 14,000 children last year for injuries in general, according to Jessica Saunders, injury prevention coordinator at Dayton Children’s and the coordinator of Safe Kids Greater Dayton, a local coalition formed as part of Safe Kids Worldwide, a national organization focusing on the prevention of unintentional childhood injury. In 2011, Dayton Children’s treated a total of 716 playground injuries — which includes 20 bouncer-related injuries and 132 trampoline-related injuries. This data from Dayton Children’s include both inpatients (patients who stay in the hospital while receiving treatment) and outpatients (patients who are treated at a hospital, such as in an emergency room or clinic, but are not hospitalized over night).

“We’re seeing … increasing numbers (of bouncer-related injuries), probably because there are an increase of inflatable bouncers out there for consumption,” she said. ” … There are now more safety guidelines for trampolines, but now inflatable bouncers are probably going to be on the list of things (they) need to take a look at as far as safety guidelines. … We echo that it’s really important to educate people about the dangers of these consumer products. Parents should really know the risks before purchasing these items.”

In 2011, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center treated 30,294 patients — which includes both inpatients and outpatients — for injuries in general, according to Margie Koehn, application specialist III in the Level I Pediatric Trauma Center at the hospital. This number includes 821 injuries as a result of falls from playground equipment and 319 trampoline-related injuries. It also includes five bouncer-related injuries among inpatients; data on outpatients who were treated for bouncer-related injuries was not available.

Dr. Mike Gittelman, a professor of pediatrics in the Division of Emergency Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s, said he has not personally seen many bouncer-related injuries. According to Gittelman, while this trend is a problem, issues like drowning and firearm injuries remain bigger ones. People also should realize that the majority of these bouncer-related injuries are “pretty minor” for those 6 years of age and older, he said.

“We have not seen a huge number of bounce house-related injuries,” said Dr. Junichi Tamai, the director of the Physician Assistant Program in the Division of Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery at Cincinnati Children’s. “That said, we have seen more of them than we had five years ago. The increased rate of these injuries is most likely related to the growing popularity of these bounce houses.”

Proper setup, obeying rules key, businesses say

Businesses in our area that use or rent inflatable bouncers share some of the safety procedures in place in their businesses that can be incorporated into private use with rentals or individually owned inflatables.

Jimmy HoShue, owner of BOUNCE-A-ROO in Washington Township, said constant supervision is key to safety. He also said it’s important to remember bouncers should not be set up outdoors in winds of more than 50 mph.

“Bounce houses are safe,” HoShue said. “It depends on who is watching them. (If) the supervision is not that great, I think that that’s where the injuries come from.”

Tanya Walker, the owner of Go Ape Rental, LLC in Liberty Township, said the business’s equipment always is delivered and set up by trained employees, and customers are given specific written and verbal safety instructions, such as not allowing children to do flips, she said.

Bart Nye, president of Prime Time Party Rental in Dayton, said his company has been renting out inflatable bouncer equipment for more than seven years, and has not seen any injuries.

“If you follow the guidelines by the state and manufacturer, you should really have no problems,” he said. “It’s when you don’t follow the rules and regulations that there’s a problem.”

JT Szabo, general manager of RentAJumpy.com based in Troy, said in the company’s five year history, it has maintained an “accident-free record.”

“In regards to recent reports regarding inflatable usage, we feel that compared to other common and popular childhood activities such as youth sports or even bicycle riding, the risk of injury while using an inflatable ride is small, and can be largely avoided by simply following the rider safety rules required to be clearly posted on the front of each ride,” he said.

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