Beware of “Bubble Soccer” or Knockerball

Image result for bubble ball soccer wikipedia
See photo attribution below (Creative Commons)

There’s a new craze in the sports world that PTAs, principals, parents, EMS, ER personnel, orthopedists and neurologists need to be aware of.

It goes by the deceptive name “Bubble soccer” [also Knockerball] and the claim is that, how can you possibly get hurt in a bubble (like wrapping your child in bubble wrap!). Plenty of ways, it seems, especially if those outfitting and presumably monitoring the players are ignorant about its dangers.

It doesn’t help that ER personnel greet their first cases with a smirk: so you managed to hurt yourself wrapped in a bubble?

From the videos I have watched,* I have seen very little soccer going on. Rather, the playing field looks like a lot of people playing bumper cars — without the cars, like a freeform smash-up. What could possibly go wrong?

Some suppliers are themselves concerned about unsafe practices:

San Diego Bubble Soccer:

It may be ignorance or negligence, but either way, it’s incredibly dangerous. Consider [May 2016] this brain injury incident in Atlanta that was caused by a collision like this one. In both cases, the equipment was extremely unsafe and should never have been used. We have seen equally dangerous bubble soccer in San Diego.”

Six months later the Emory University neurologists who treated the player mentioned above published “How safe is Bubble Soccer?” in the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience.

Then there is this one  (spring 2017) from North Alabama: “Shoals student suffers severe brain injury playing Knockerball”. I don’t know if he survived or is paralyzed like the man who won $45 million from a Missouri Knockerball franchise.

Risk Assessments can be revealing: Note the overall-risks are highest when staff are negligent. Untrained or unvigilant party-rental staffers are not the type of people best equipped to protect your or your child’s safety.

Youtubes: Even when supervised, the potential is there:

In addition to risks for arm and leg breaks, whiplash and torn ligaments, when the head is jostled around, concussions occur. The marketing site Mindful Marketing provides a stern warning (“Concussion Ball?”) on the dangers of this “self-regulating” (we know what that means) sport.

You can search any metropolitan region and see ads aimed at summer camps, the birthday party market, school field days, and church groups from party rental companies. They may have enough years behind them that they can manage ballpits for elementary kids, but would you trust them with the kinds of issues noted by the Risk Assessment above?

One school system won’t. Remember, this craze is less than two years old. It has already been prohibited by the Fairfax County Schools in Virginia. This district is a bedroom community for Washington DC and thus I imagine has a fairly high rate of lawyers per capita.

They know a potential liability suit when they see one.

It’s the traumatic injuries that make the news and the medical journals. But if there are traumatic ones, it’s a good guess there are lesser ones, and comments are invited.

*This one is from the Knockerball website; it is the game as it should be played with adults who aren’t trying to hurt one another. I think Fairfax County Schools considered, if this is the best, what would be the worst? What happens when the kids have aggression to release and vary widely in height and weight? What happens if one shows distress and a teacher suits up to investigate? Wham, that’s what.

Photo Attribution: By Julkina – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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