Every 46 minutes another injury in a bouncy house.

The internet was ablaze the other day with reports about a Journal of Pediatrics study showing a dramatic increase in the number of kids being hurt in those bouncy house things, pictured above. The number of kids injured jumped dramatically from 1995 to 2008. And the number of kids hurt doubled between 2008 and 2010. In 2010, 31 children per day were seen in Emergency Rooms for injuries that occurred in a bouncy house. That works out to about an injury every 46 minutes. And the explanation for the increasing injuries is pretty simple – it seems these things are now required at every birthday party, block party or barbecue.

In a finding that suprised absolutely no one, the study noted that boys are more likely to suffer concussions or closed head injuries. Having been around those contraptions quite a bit in the last few years, I’ve noticed that boys seem to be genetically programmed to run full-speed, directly at one another. And they all lead with their heads.

The most common mechanism of injury however, is falls. Less than 10% of the injuries are due to collisions. Only 3.4% of the kids injured needed to be hospitalized and 4 out of 5 of those kids had suffered fractures. Some of the articles had suggestions on how to make a bouncy house safer. The suggestions included:

1. Adequate adult supervision. Seems obvious but take a close look the next time you see one of these things being used. At a private event “supervision”, if it exists at all, occurs when Uncle Pat looks in on the kids on his way to get another beer. Even at school functions, the supervision is poor. Parents take shifts of 15-30 minutes. There is no continuity and one parent can’t control 20 screaming kids. It would be smarter to have 2-3 parents keeping an eye on things. One parent at the entrance, monitoring the kids as they enter and leave, and parents on the sides, doing what they can to monitor the madness inside.

2. Limit use to kids 6 years or older. That’s a start. Younger kids are very unsteady inside these things and particularly vulnerable if there are older kids flying around. Limiting access to kids of the same age/size would be even helpful as well.

3. Banning flips. Good idea. Kids doing flips are putting themselves, and other participants at risk.

4. Limit the number of kids inside. Another good idea. Have a monitor at the entrance actually count out the number of kids and then the door is shut and no one gets in for say, 10 minutes. Most kids are used to that kind of routine from school and will go along. And limiting the number of kids inside at a given time makes it easier for supervising adults to keep an eye on the activity inside.

Here is one parent who will NOT be disappointed when the fascination with these things comes to an end.

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