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Rise in children hurt on bouncy castles

26th November 2012

There has been a sharp rise in the number of children being sent for emergency hospital treatment after being injured on bouncy castles, according to a recent study in the United States.

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The number of children presenting at emergency rooms from bouncy castle accidents rose between 1995 and 2010, while the annual rate doubled in the two years between 2008 and 2010.

A report published in the journal Pediatrics found that a child is sent to an accident & emergency department once every 46 minutes in the US.

According to study co-author Gary Smith, who directs of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio, the level of injuries resulting from play on bouncy castles is a problem that is too often overlooked.

A similar rise in the incidence of an infectious disease would command far greater public attention, he said.

Smith said parents could take steps to ensure that children played more safely on bouncy castles in future, including setting limits to types of play and the ages of children taking part.

He said banning the popular play equipment was probably not necessary.

Instead, researchers could work with manufacturers and national agencies to help make bouncy castles safer for children.

Bouncy castles are not the only kind of inflatable play equipment that children enjoy: manufacturers also offer bounce houses and moon walks. They are popular in children's play areas, or as entertainment for children's parties.

But they all carry similar risks, Smith said.

Smith and his fellow researchers speculate that the rise in injuries is linked to the growing popularity of the bouncy castle. He said there was no evidence that the play equipment itself was getting more dangerous.

However, the injury patterns studied among children up to 17 treated in hospital emergency rooms may not be the whole story, and the rates of injury could be even higher than suggested by this study.

Boys were more likely to present with concussions, closed head injuries or cuts than girls, but both genders suffered sprains, strains and fractures, mostly in the arms and legs.

Most of the injuries were caused by falls, often into or onto the bouncer, and sometimes falling out of it, often while getting off or on.

Nearly 10% of injuries happened through collisions, or through one child pushing another, while 6.3% were caused by children falling on each other.

Only 3.4% of injuries resulted in a hospital stay of longer than 24 hours, and the majority of these were for broken bones.

But Smith said that children do too little activity and that bouncing could be good exercise, adding that any physical activity carried with it the risk of injury.

Experts said that limiting the number of children on the bouncy castle, as well as ensuring adult supervision at all times was one way to limit accidents. Banning flips or horseplay was another.

According to Shireen Atabaki, from the accident and emergency department of the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, the worst injuries tend to happen when several children are bouncing at once.

Children should also be the same height, weight and age, she said.


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