I was forwarded a case series that captured a bit of data about injuries in bouncy houses and inflatables. It’s not a large study (only 21 families injured in a bouncy house were interviewed) but it sheds light on 2 things. One, orthopedists worried enough about bouncy houses that they set out to determine the risk, and two, bouncy houses do pose a real risk for fractures. Their suspicion alone doesn’t confer a problem, of course. But, validate my worry? Maybe. Change my decision? I don’t know…

The post I wrote last week about hating the bouncy house was more about negotiating my experience of parenthood than it was about the bouncer itself. What I mean is, I was writing about the internal wrestle I have with wanting to do things one way but feeling compelled (in my gut) to go in the opposite direction. You know what I mean, the parenting dynamic in which we set out to do one thing, then being tugged by instinct, we find ourselves in yet another spot. It feels typical, maybe expected, and entirely normal. For example, I set out not to use the pacifier with my first son. At hour 2 of crying, on about day of life 6, we grabbed onto that pacifier and gave it to F. Parents in my clinic will state that they meant to wait until 6 months to introduce solid foods, but once their darling 4 month-old started staring at their spoon with each bite, they gave in and grabbed the carrots. I set out not to use any television in our home. But after the second baby arrived, showing Sesame Street to the 2 year-old allowed me to take a shower. The list goes on and on and on. The ideas of how we’re going to parent and how we implement our choice are not always aligned much less overlapping. Like I said, this is normal. Being a parent helped me “get this.”

With each move against our parenting blueprint, we figure someone will have an opinion, a counter-argument, maybe even praise. Many of us go looking online for validation, reassurance, or antagonistically, information that will cause us to change our direction. Many of us don’t need reassurance, even risk evangelizing our own decisions. What works for us feels “right.” But my sincerity in belief may not be the perfect key for another family. I wonder, does this divisive-parenting-beyond-our-family hurt our friendships and community? Our respect for each other and for our unique differences? Are we simply more righteous in 2011 because of our online connections?

In the responses to the post about the bouncy house, I felt as though those that “admitted” to liking the bouncy houses felt because I was so worried, we had separated into 2 teams. How is that possible? If it were my child, I’d read the data below on bouncy houses. But I also would say, we’ll all interpret the risk, the numbers, and the worry differently. That’s up to you.

I really do want you to watch the sun set; I want to help you relax while you raise your kids. I’m searching for a sense of calm. For me, I believe data helps.

Inflatable Bouncer Injuries:

  • Researchers reviewed data on children presenting to the ER between 2002 and 2007. They found that 1.1% (49/4367) of all children with injuries who presented to the ER during that time were due to injuries sustained on an inflatable/bouncy house. (I was shocked the number was this high, to be honest). Does it feel high or low to you?
  • They were then able to reach 21 of the 49 families with children who sustained injuries on a bouncer. They interviewed the parent/guardian about the injury: what type of injury; was the child jumping alone or with others; was an adult supervising; how was the child injured on the inflatable?
  • The synopsis: majority of injuries were broken bones in the arms (66%) and legs (34%) of school-aged boys (average age 7 years) jumping on a rented device at home. All of the families reached for the study said the device was rented and at a home. The majority of the children injured had adult supervision (57%).
  • None of the children injured were jumping alone. The average number of jumpers at the time of injury was 5, with a range of 3 to 11 jumpers.
  • Injuries occurred most commonly due to collisions between children (67%) and falling out of the bouncer (19%).

The case series wasn’t perfect. It’s hard to believe that I would remember how many people were jumping at the time of an injury years from now. Maybe I would because of the injury; but the need to recall information over years takes power away from the data. Further, the series was small and the outcomes for patients weren’t followed. But it’s a beginning in understanding the injury list and ways to reduce and prevent them. A commentary that accompanied the a summary of the study discussed a spinal cord injury from a bouncy house, as well.

With this data, I stand behind my list in the last post: 1. Have children jump with children their own size and 2. Have adult supervision.

There is no hidden agenda in my sharing the data. If and when you return to the bouncy house, you’ll now have more tools to prevent injury. Yet I wonder as I type this afternoon, do you think our parenting choices divide us more than they unite us? Do you have difficulty maintaining friendships with parents that choose (radically) different things for their children than you do?