Be­ware the pit­falls of bounc­ing

Jump­ing cas­tle in­juries are more com­mon than you might think. Here’s how to avoid them, writes Elis­a­beth Leamy

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THERE were just 20 min­utes left of the party when it hap­pened. My 10-yearold daugh­ter Kelsea rushed up to me in tears. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “I bumped heads with an­other girl on the moon bounce (jump­ing cas­tle) and now my nose re­ally, re­ally hurts,” she cried.

One look and I knew this was no fleet­ing bump. There was a dime-sized dent in the bridge of her pre­vi­ously adorable nose and she couldn’t breathe through it.

Two hours and one CAT scan later, the ER doc­tor con­firmed my sink­ing sus­pi­cion. “Yep, it’s bro­ken,” he said.

By then Kelsea’s nose had swollen so much that she looked like a Star Trek char­ac­ter.

“What’s Star Trek?” she asked. That would have been funny, but right then, the pae­di­atric ENT stepped into the room. “She’s go­ing to need surgery to re­pair her nose,” he in­formed us.

By then, other moth­ers were send­ing me text mes­sages ask­ing whether Kelsea was okay.

When I told them her nose was bro­ken, many were shocked.

“What a crazy, freak ac­ci­dent,” one wrote. “I can’t be­lieve this hap­pened on a moon bounce.”

But it wasn’t a freak ac­ci­dent and, as a long­time con­sumer re­porter, I should have seen it com­ing. Gov­ern­ment safety of­fi­cials and pae­di­atric groups have been warn­ing about the dan­gers of “in­flat­able amuse­ments” for years.

The Con­sumer Prod­uct Safety Com­mis­sion in the states says 82 203 peo­ple were in­jured on in­flat­a­bles be­tween 2008 and 2013, more than 90 per­cent of those on moon bounces. (That num­ber rep­re­sents ER vis­its and doesn’t in­clude scrapes and bruises dealt with at home.)

And the rate of in­juries has been grow­ing over time, per­haps be­cause moon bounces, also called bounce houses and jump­ing cas­tles, are more com­mon than ever, with even back­yard ver­sions avail­able.

Two-thirds of the in­juries are to legs and arms, and 15 per­cent to heads and faces.

A study pub­lished in the jour­nal Pe­di­atrics re­ported that in 2010, a child got hurt on a jump­ing cas­tle every 46 min­utes.

“It is very com­mon for us to see chil­dren in our emer­gency depart­ment who have been in­jured on moon bounces… ” said Katie Don­nelly, an emer­gency room doc­tor at Chil­dren’s Na­tional Med­i­cal Cen­tre.

“The case that I re­mem­ber most vividly was two small chil­dren play­ing in a poorly se­cured bounce house. A big gust of wind came up and sent the whole struc­ture tum­bling quite a way. Thank­fully, ev­ery­one made it out with only mi­nor bumps and abra­sions, but it could have been much worse.”

The au­thors of the Pe­di­atrics study called bounce house in­juries an “epi­demic” and said the type and sever­ity of chil­dren’s in­juries were sim­i­lar to those from on recre­ational tram­po­lines.

That’s sig­nif­i­cant, be­cause in 2012, the Amer­i­can Academy of Pae­di­atrics came out with ad­vice that chil­dren should not play on back­yard tram­po­lines at all. Ever.

“Pae­di­a­tri­cians need to ac­tively dis­cour­age recre­ational tram­po­line use,” the an­nounce­ment said.

Few have sug­gested that chil­dren forgo the plea­sures of the jump­ing cas­tles al­to­gether – I my­self knew about the risks and let my daugh­ter play on one – yet it seems like there should be na­tional safety stan­dards. There aren’t. Moon bounce mak­ers ad­here to some vol­un­tary stan­dards and the user man­u­als that come with them con­tain warn­ings, but most par­ents never see them. So it’s up to us to be smart about this our­selves.

Here are sev­eral safety sug­ges­tions from safety ad­vo­cates and med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als:

One child at a time. This one’s a real party killer, but stud­ies show many of the worst in­juries hap­pen when mul­ti­ple chil­dren play on a moon bounce at the same time. They get into col­li­sions or fall on one an­other. All chil­dren the same age/size. When chil­dren do col­lide or fall on one an­other, the in­juries are worse when they are of markedly dif­fer­ent sizes. At our an­nual Fourth of July block party we now en­force sep­a­rate “big kids” and “lit­tle kids” times on the moon bounce.

No chil­dren younger than six. The Pe­di­atrics study found that more than a third of chil­dren in­jured on bounce houses are younger than six. The CPSC says kids un­der six should not use tram­po­lines. Par­ents could use the same guide­line for bounce houses.

No touch­ing. If mul­ti­ple chil­dren are on a moon bounce at once, tell them to keep some dis­tance from one an­other and to try not to touch each an­other.

No stunts. They’re called “bounce” houses, not “flip” or “som­er­sault” houses, and bounce is all kids should do in them. “Flips and som­er­saults are the most com­mon cause of spinal trauma,” Don­nelly said.

Care­ful get­ting in and out. A sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of moon bounce in­juries hap­pen as kids get on or off. So, warn your kids about that and maybe give them a hand. It’s also a good idea to put pad­ding out­side the moon bounce exit.

Watch out for wind. We’ve all heard the dra­matic re­ports of bounce houses picked up off the ground by wind. Proper an­chor­ing can help, but if it’s a re­ally windy day, bet­ter to ditch the bounce house al­to­gether.

Safe sur­round­ings. Whether you’re set­ting up a moon bounce your­self or have hired a com­pany to do so, make sure it’s well away from walls, green­houses, con­crete sur­faces, sharp ob­jects or other ar­eas of po­ten­tial dan­ger.

Be­ware of de­fla­tion. There have also been mul­ti­ple re­ports of chil­dren trapped by heavy plas­tic when moon bounces sud­denly de­flated, which is a suf­fo­ca­tion risk. Gen­er­a­tors pow­er­ing in­flat­a­bles should have plenty of petrol and elec­tric ones should be plugged into GFI­type out­lets, ac­cord­ing to the CPSC. But most of all, par­ents should keep an eye on their chil­dren and get them out fast if the con­trap­tion starts to col­lapse.

Adult su­per­vi­sion. And fi­nally, we par­ents should su­per­vise to make sure all of the rules above are fol­lowed. At the party where my daugh­ter was in­jured, at first we adults were vig­i­lant about mak­ing sure there weren’t too many kids on the moon bounce at once. But as time went by, we re­laxed – too much, ap­par­ently.

My daugh­ter came through her surgery fine. Her nose looks like the cute one I re­mem­ber.

How­ever, be­cause of scar tis­sue, it will get stuffed up more quickly for the rest of her life. Still, we’re grate­ful it wasn’t worse.

The CPSC knows of a dozen deaths in­volv­ing jump­ing cas­tles be­tween 2003 and 2013. – The Wash­ing­ton Post

Leamy hosts the pod­cast “Easy Money” and is a 25-year con­sumer ad­vo­cate for pro­grammes such as “Good Morn­ing Amer­ica” and “The Dr Oz Show.” Con­nect with her at and @ Elis­a­bethLeamy

Jump­ing cas­tle in­juries are quite com­mon but can be avoided, says the author.


Kelsea’s nose was bro­ken in a col­li­sion with an­other child on a moon bounce and had to un­dergo surgery.


The author’s daugh­ter be­fore her bounce house in­jury.

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