No Joke: Parents Really Can Put Kids in a Bubble for Sports
22 May, 2015By: Tracey Schelmetic
It used to be something of a joke that parents, seeking to keep their children unhurt, might opt to keep Billy and Suzie (or Liam and Emma, for the twenty-first century) in a bubble. Joking aside, some parents have actually succeeded. Meet “Bubble Soccer,” a hybrid sport that involves players encased in bubbles from the hips up. It’s a bit like soccer and bumper cars rolled into one: players, encased in an inflatable plastic bubble, can kick, dive, collide and bump the ball, all free of the risk of concussion to their youthful developing brains. In fact, the “bounce” generated by the bubble becomes part of the game, as players attempt to send their opponents flying.
The bubble is becoming more visible both in the context of soccer and simply for play. Bubble Sports, a Toronto-based company offering bubble rental services and kids’ parties, says the point is to combine bubble suits and sports for fitness, fun and safety. Bubble Soccer and its close cousin, “Bubble Battle” are meant to be very easy to play and involve nothing but leg movement (no hands, and no throwing). Cincinnati, Ohio-based Bubble Soccer Sports offers an even broader spectrum of bubble sports, including hokey-pokey for younger kids, pinball, baseball/kickball, sumo wrestling, capture the flag, red rover and sharks and minnows.
The bubbles aren’t just for young children with nervous helicopter parents, however: Bubble Soccer Sports offers events for fraternities and sororities, bachelor and bachelorette parties, family reunions and even corporate and charity fund-raising events.
Bubble sports are said to be an evolution of zorbing, which involves enclosing the participant entirely inside a bubble (and not just the upper body, like with bubble soccer) for the purpose of rolling down natural hills or manmade ramps and obstacle courses. Zorbing is curiously popular in the UK, where it’s something of a pub game. (Yes, really.) Participants may move freely inside the zorb or they may be attached with a harness. Some zorbs, which are actually a bubble inside a bubble for shock absorption purposes, are large enough to accommodate two participants at the same time.
Bubble soccer, which is gaining popularity, notoriety (and some possibly well-deserved mocking) both in youth and adult sporting spheres, began as a joke by Norwegian comedians/television hosts Henrik Elvestad and Johan Golden in 2011, according to Vice Sports. While the game may have a reputation for zero injuries because of the “bubble wrap,” this isn’t true, according to one of the few “experts” on the subject.
John Anthony Radosta, who works for fitness company Advanced Sports Technology and has equity in the National Association of Bubble Soccer (NABS), told Vice Sports that bubble soccer is, in fact, a full-contact sport, and players can be at some risk of twisted ankles and knees. Still, it’s concussions that are of most concern to parents as science backs up the fears that traumatic brain injury can be extra-harmful to young people. Bubble soccer may look funny and it may even be worthy of a few jokes, but ankles and knees are easier to fix than brains.