Inflatable bounce houses have been a source of joy and entertainment for young children for decades. They've remained relatively popular since the time they were established, and have even been deemed therapeutic for children with sensory impairments by experts. However, researchers have noticed a trend correlating these bounce houses with child injuries that may make parents think twice about buying the go-to birthday party attraction.
An initial interest in the hazardous nature of these inflatable houses was sparked by a tragic event in Colorado in 2014. According to a personal injury lawsuit brought by parents John and Michelle DeLuca and Jessica and Justin Mattison, the manufacturers and distributors involved in the sale of the Jump ‘N Play Bouncer are liable for the deaths of their young children. In the suit, parents describe then six-year-old Noah DeLuca and then five-year-old Cameron Matteson energetically jumping around in the inflatable bounce house. An unexpected gust of wind suddenly lifted the house in the air, flinging both boys out of the house from at least 15 feet in the air. Authorities and spectators described the events as similar to being in “a horror movie.”
Cameron landed headfirst on a parked car and tumbled to the pavement. The police say he suffered a very severe head injury. Noah landed on asphalt and broke both of his arms. His parents say he was medically treated for internal and facial injuries. Fortunately, both boys survived and were able to return to elementary school in the fall.
Investigators concluded that the owner of the bounce house, Ryan Barber, had set the attraction up properly. The directions had indicated to use the plastic stakes to secure the house on the ground and he had done so. However, the stakes stood no chance against the strong Colorado winds that day. And he, along with Toys R Us, Little Tykes and MGA Entertainment (who bought little Tykes in 2006) have been named as defendants in the case.
This is not the first occurrence of children being harmed in bounce houses. In fact, emergency room staff have seen an onslaught of bouncy house injuries inflicted upon children at a steady rate throughout the years, and they're starting to become more frequent.
A relatively new study released by the Center for Injury Research and Policy revealed the enormity of this issue. They concluded that between the 1955 and 2010, there was a substantial increase in injuries. Approximately 31 children per day on average were evaluated and treated for “an inflatable bouncer-related injury.” This translates to nearly 11,000 injuries a year. Almost 20% of these cases involved head and neck injuries. Due to these alarming statistics, experts have even went as far to label the massive amount of injuries as an epidemic.
Currently, there are obligatory guidelines in 20 states to set up and operate a bounce house. These rules cover details that range from how deeply the stakes must be implanted into the ground to how many attendants must be present to supervise the children. Tracy Mehan, Health educator with the Child Injury Prevention Alliance, says that Americans need to become more concerned with the hazards associated with these devices.
“If this were a disease, Mehan says of the 11,000 injuries, “it would be considered an epidemic.”