Bounce zone: How children can have fun safely

Teach children how to have fun safely, says Helen O’Callaghan

The season for trips and slips among children is well under way and it begins each year with the Communion and Confirmation-related hiring of bouncy castles and trampolines.

“The hour goes forward, the weather gets better and children are whooshed out to play. They’ve been in all winter in front of digital pads and they’re uncoordinated. Put all this together and you get a perfect storm of contributory factors,” says Dr David Foley, consultant in emergency medicine and medical director of the Affidea ExpressCare Clinics (in Tallaght, Santry and Elysian, Cork), which have seen an upsurge in bounce-related injuries through April and May.

The big spike in “falls, slips, trips, and bumps” is a trend that maintains throughout the summer, says Dr Foley, who’s calling on parents to be super-vigilant when children are on bouncy castles and trampolines to minimise chances of their incurring a nasty break.

“You can’t regulate falls out of a child’s life and it’s a difficult balance to get right — you want them to have a nice time without being overly-protective. But because of the nature of what they’re being encouraged to do — to jump and land in different ways — it’s only a matter of time before they fall. Generating more momentum and height means they fall with greater force, which is likely to do more injury than if they fall from a level surface.”

Bouncy castles and trampolines should have built-in safety net and it’s vital to follow manufacturer recommendations. “It should be well secured to the ground and there shouldn’t be more than the recommended number of children on it. But you can never budget for the over-exuberance of youth. All it takes is a moment of lax supervision for them to come up with some daredevil jump.”

Although a degree of risk has to be accepted (as when children play soccer or camogie), Dr Foley says parents need to concentrate on planning and supervision — and consider the weather: “A mild shower and a slippery bouncy castle is a recipe for a fall.”

He says most of the injuries sustained aren’t major trauma, but peripheral limb injuries — twisted ankles, fractured wrists, occasionally concussion. Other common injuries include elbow fractures, shoulder injuries, lacerations and —in more serious falls — head injuries.

“Most injuries are mild to moderate and children are incredibly robust and recover quickly and well,” says Dr Foley.

Visit www.affidea.ie.

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