Q: Is bubble soccer dangerous?
A: It depends on who you hire.
For over three years, San Diego Bubble Soccer has offered a proven, safe, fun service for all ages. However, all “bubble soccer” is not the same! Anyone with an SUV and a thousand dollars can buy cheap equipment, create a nice website, and open business, without any regard for your safety.
We have personally witnessed San Diego vendors using equipment and methods that risk serious head injury, paralysis, and death.
It may be ignorance or negligence, but either way, it's incredibly dangerous. Consider 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.
If you are considering another source for bubble soccer services, please ask the proprietor the questions below and get clear answers. Your safety depends on it.
Can we (the players) adjust the shoulder straps to how we want them?
If the answer is yes, do not hire the vendor. Players are unaware of head clearance and are unprepared to protect themselves appropriately. Allowing players to loosen their own straps is dangerously irresponsible.
How much clearance do your bubbles have between the top of the head and the top of the bubble?
If the answer vague, do not hire the vendor. Head clearance is the most important safety consideration, and if a vendor cannot discuss their specific clearance measurements and their method for maintaining them, then they are probably deploying dangerous equipment (and they may not even know it).
How do you make sure the straps don’t come so loose that my head is vulnerable?
If the answer is “we check them to be sure” (or something similar), do not hire the vendor. Unless straps are fitted with permanent limits or stoppers that automatically prevent over-extension, there is always slippage during play, resulting in extremely dangerous head exposure. Single slip-buckles are not enough, and unfortunately MOST factory-built equipment from China is unsafe. We use custom-designed, permanently-restricted straps to prevent over-extension, ensuring safe head clearance at all times.
Can we just rent the bubbles without the referee?
If the answer is yes, do not hire the vendor. Bubble soccer equipment requires special attention, adjustment, and instruction for safe operation. Anyone who will rent bubbles to you without trained supervision has no regard for your safety.
Do you allow indoor play in gyms?
If the answer is yes, do not hire the vendor. We have former experience with gym play both ourselves and through others in the industry. Due to a variety of factors, it is simply not safe. Any business that allows indoor play in gyms is not prioritizing safety.
Can we run into each other as fast as we want to?
If the answer is yes, do not hire the vendor. Allowing players to run at high speed into each other is dangerously irresponsible. We carefully constrain the foot speed of players by enforcing rules on aggression and by limiting the field area in which they can run, preventing extreme high-speed play. Our bubble soccer is fun and silly, not risky and violent.
Can we play out in the open, without being limited by lines or markers?
If the answer is yes, do not hire the vendor. Uncontained players are free to move at potentially dangerous speeds and often willingly impact obstacles and bystanders, risking injury to themselves or others. As a general rule, field area should be about 1000 sq. ft. for every two players; ten players fit on a basketball-court-sized field (~5000 sq. ft.) Unrestricted play by new players on a wide-open field is dangerous.
Do your bubbles extend well below the butt for lower body protection?
Everyone will tell you yes, but please check their pictures or videos to be sure. Inadequate coverage below the buttock can result in hip or tailbone injury. Many vendors use bubbles that are dangerously short. For adults, we use oversize bubbles (originally intended for very tall people) to provide an extra margin of safety both above the head and below the butt. For children, we use ultralight adult-class bubbles, for the same reason.
Do you bring enough bubbles to replace any leaking ones?
Everyone will tell you yes, but the truth is probably not, and that’s dangerous. Most equipment is poorly made and prone to seam leaks, with many leaks typically occurring at a single event. Vendors respond by constantly “topping off” inflation or duct-taping seams. Unfortunately, active leaking exposes the player to serious injury. (This injury was partially caused by low inflation, probably due to ignored leaks.) Our equipment is custom-designed to our specifications and has never split a seam. We always have spares on hand, just in case.
What are all of your safety rules?
At the very minimum, they should include some version of ALL of the following. If they don’t, do not hire the vendor.
- Do not intentionally impact a player that is already down on the ground.
- Do not kick the soccer ball when you are down on the ground (exposing legs).
- Stay inside the marked field.
- No sprinting, full-speed bumping, battering-ram hits, or air-launching into others.
- Obey the referee's whistle.
How do you enforce safety rules?
Every game should have a trained referee who explains proper safety practices, actively scans the field during play, and enforces rules as needed to prohibit irresponsible play. Hiring a guy or two to just show up and inflate some bubbles for you will result in an unpleasantly rough experience for someone at best, and a catastrophic injury at worst.
Three factors are required for safe bubble soccer:
- Proper equipment, in both design and maintenance
- Conservative rules with supervision
- Responsible game layout and format