When it comes to child safety, those mechanical horsies outside the grocery store couldn’t be dangerous, could they? How ‘bout those inflatable bouncy castles? Or backyard trampolines? Or even your stairs? According to a number of recent studies, the world of play could be a lot more dangerous than we think (but probably not dangerous enough to get parents and grandparents to stop using them completely, but hopefully enough to get us to pay a little more attention to basic safety).

Let’s start with the ponies. A new child safety study found that more than 4,400 kids end up in emergency rooms every year because of ride-related injuries. And a good portion of those injuries happened at restaurants, malls, stores, arcades, and other non-amusement park locations.

The study, done by researchers in the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, found that in the two decades between 1990 and 2010, 92,885 children under the age of 18 years were treated in United States emergency departments for ride-related injuries. Only a third of those injuries happened on “fixed” rides (the ones you find at traditional amusement parks). “Mobile” rides (the kind that you see at traveling county fairs and festivals) accounted for 29% of injuries, and mall/store/arcade rides made up 12%. 70% of those injuries happened between May and September.

Injuries were most likely to be sustained as the result of a fall (32 percent), or by either hitting a part of a body on a ride or being hit by something while riding (18 percent). But what’s especially interesting is that injuries from mall rides were different than those from fixed rides. “They were more likely to be head/neck or face injuries, concussions/closed head injuries or cuts than were injuries associated with fixed site or mobile rides,” according to a press release from Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Almost three-fourths of the “mall ride” injuries occurred when a child fell in, on, off or against the ride. These types of rides may be placed over hard surfaces and may not have child restraints, which contributes to the injury risk.

This child safety e study was led by Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and was published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics. Read an abstract of the study here.

child safety - watch out for bouncy housesSmith and his team also investigated bouncy-room accidents, and found that since 1995, the injury rate has increased by 1,500 percent – meaning it’s 15 times higher now than then. Between 2008 and 2010 alone, 31 children 17 or younger were treated in emergency rooms for bouncy injuries every day. More than half (55%) of patients are boys, with an average age of 7 ½.

Forty-four percent of the injuries happened in a recreational setting and 38 percent happened at home, most likely on a rented unit used for a birthday party.

The most common injuries were the result of falls (43%), followed by stunts gone wrong and collisions. A bit over a quarter of injuries were fractures, and the same percentage were strains or sprains. About 20 percent on the injuries were to the head and neck, something that experts say could lead to potentially serious problems like concussion. You can read an abstract of the study here.

Read part II of our series on child safety here, including our recommendations for how you can improve child safety in and around your home.