Inflatable Bouncers – A Growing Social Hazard?
As inflated play areas have grown in popularity, so have the number of injuries associated with them. They look like and indeed are, great fun for kids, at birthday parties, indoor play grounds and fairs of all kinds. More and more parents hire them for use in their own backyard. But like the Trojan horse they bring dangers into the home.
One sharp-eyed pediatrician at ER in Columbus Ohio, picked up on the rising trend of accidents he was seeing, because of the inflatable bouncy areas. Dr. Gary Smith works at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Similar patterns have been noted in Des Moines, Seattle, Iowa and Tampa. Dr. Smith made the inquiries in a study of injuries attributable to inflatables in other US databases. In particular the researchers looked at data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.
This database is kept by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and collates patient records from every visit to emergency rooms, including those of inflatable ‘fun area’ injuries. The number incredibly rose by 15 hundred percent in the 15 years from 1995 to ‘10. From ‘08 to ‘10 alone the rate of injury accidents doubled.
These findings were published in the journal Pediatrics.In terms we can all relate to across America, 31 kids were brought into emergency rooms because of accidents on these play items every day. Between 1 and 2 per hour according to Dr. Smith. He is currently director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at his Hospital.
Of the almost 65 thousand youngsters seen in American emergency clinics in the last two decades, more than half (55%) of the traumas happened in the five years to 2010, the study finds. Over fifty percent of the injured kids were between 6 and 12 years old, while more than 33 percent were in the under-five age group.
Breaks and fractures to arms and legs were the most reported accidents. In the toddler age group, under 5, fractures were the more likely outcome of too boisterous play. While the teens were much more likely to suffer with sprains and strains. Worryingly almost 1 out of 5, or 18.5 percent of the patients had injuries to their head and neck. Very few of the injured children were seriously hurt; just 3% needed hospitalization, as reported by the national databases.
The researchers were reluctant to list out the basic causes of the rising trend of injuries, but there is an inescapable link with the easy universal availability of the inflatables. They are everywhere. They are ubiquitous wherever people come together for socializing; birthday parties, county fairs, fundraising events. The more the kids see them, the more they use them, and the more likely they are to hurt themselves in the excitement of play.
The emergency treatment rooms across the country are the most visible places. Clearly the number of injuries will be significantly even greater because many children will be treated in places other than ER.
If the numbers described an infectious disease or illness, this phenomenon would be considered as a public health disaster. It is a growing and spreading social hazard. It needs to be treated as such but at the same time it cannot be prevented. But can it be ameliorated? The inflatables are new age trampolines. There are national safety guidelines for the use of trampolines. So is now the time to develop something similar for inflatable bouncers?