Bouncy castle ordeal prompts warning from injury experts

Three young children were injured Monday in an upstate New York town, after the inflatable bouncy castle they were playing in caught a gust of wind and flew into the air, violently throwing the kids to the ground. Emily Boucher/Instagram

EDMONTON – Three children in upstate New York are recovering following a frightening incident earlier this week involving a bouncy castle. The kids were playing in the inflatable toy, when a gust of wind lifted it up into the air.

A 10-year-old was tossed out of the structure right away and only suffered minor injuries; however, two boys – aged five and six – were violently thrown from the castle when it was more than 15 feet in the air, according to police.

One of them suffered a traumatic head injury, while the other suffered broken bones.

Experts say bouncy castle injuries are not uncommon

While the incident may seem unbelievable, some experts aren’t surprised by it.

“It’s a forseeable thing to happen in that you have basically a balloon and wind,” said researcher Kathryn Woodcock of Ryerson University.

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“Every year from time to time there is an inflatable that goes flying in that same manner…it’s not the first time.”

A study Woodcock authored found 42 per cent of all amusement injuries happen on an inflatable structure.

Between April 2012 and March 2013, more than 80 kids in Alberta visited the emergency room with bouncy castle-related injuries, according to the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research (ACICR).

Bad landings and ejections are the most common reasons for injuries associated with inflatable structures.

“The kids can sustain serious catastrophic injury if they land on their head and neck,” said Cathy Gladwyn of ACICR.

Neither she nor Woodcock claim the castles are inherently dangerous, though. In fact, Gladwyn believes they can be a good opportunity for children to get physical activity.

But in order to avoid injuries, there are some important things for parents to watch out for.

Advice for keeping kids safe on bouncy castles

1. Do not use these structures in high wind. “So that means monitoring the wind because if you have it set up all day, winds can change,” warned Gladwin.

2. Make sure you are maintaining constant supervision.

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3. Kids should be approximately the same size and height. Injuries on both trampolines and in inflatable structures can happen when you get big differentials in size, Gladwin said.

4. Do not allow children to perform flips.

5. Provide a soft landing outside the door, where injuries often happen.

“The most important thing anybody can keep in their mind is follow the instructions,” said Woodcock. “Following the instructions are critical.”

With files from Fletcher Kent, Global News

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