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BUNGEE JUMPING HAS POTENTIAL FOR SEVERE INJURY

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Bungee jumping has caused numerous minor injuries, but now the Annals of Emergency Medicine is reporting the first bungee-jumping injuries in the medical literature.

Case 1: A 19-year-old woman sustained a strangulation injury without significant long-term effects.Case 2: A 28-year-old man had performed more than 100 jumps without difficulty. One of his restraints failed, and his head was snapped to the left. He suffered a spinal injury resulting in quadriplegia (paralysis of both arms and legs).

Bungee jumping is a relatively new sport that is becoming popular in the United States. It originated on the South Pacific island of Pentecost, where elastic-like vines of the lignum tree are tied to islanders' ankles before they dive off elevated platforms, falling close to the ground without touching it. Certain South American tribes have used the same activity as a rite of passage to manhood, except the head strikes the ground at the same time the vine reaches its maximum tension.

Bungee jumping usually involves a vest that passes over the shoulders and between the legs and is attached to the bungee cord. The jumper dives off a platform or hot-air balloon 200 to 400 feet above the ground. The jumper approaches but does not touch the ground, rebounds and falls once or twice again until the bounce is minimal. The jumper is then lowered to the ground or pulled back into the balloon.

The above two cases show the potentially severe injuries that can result from bungee jumping. No state or local governments mandate bungee equipment inspection or instructor certification, although companies agreeing to voluntary safety guidelines of the North American Bungee Association are eligible for group insurance discounts. More studies of bungee jumping injuries are needed.