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Bungee-Jumping Risk Is Low, Study Says

Health: Of 100 jumpers, 42 were hurt, none seriously. Age doesn't matter if jumpers are healthy, researchers say.

June 07, 1998|IRA DREYFUSS | ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — A healthy man or woman can go take a flying leap, according to researchers who studied injuries among bungee jumpers.

"A jump, if performed under carefully controlled conditions, appears to be relatively safe and causes only minor, transient medical complaints," said a report in the medical journal The Physician and Sportsmedicine. It's the first wide-ranging look at injuries in this activity, said Dr. Craig C. Young, the lead author.

The research found 42 jumpers had a total of 59 minor medical complaints. All the injuries healed in a week, with the exception of cuts to one jumper who tried to grab the platform as he was going down.

"The guy was just launching and decided he didn't want to go," Young said.

The study was done at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1994 by researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. One hundred jumpers of both sexes took part. The average age was 26.

Strictly speaking, the study's findings would only apply to young, healthy adults, Young said, but "if a person is healthy, . . . . they would not have a problem no matter what their age was."

Paying $59 for the privilege, each jumped from a 130-foot platform and bounced from a flexible cord attached at one end to the platform and at the other to their ankles.

The most common complaint afterward was dizziness; 21 people had it. There were seven reports of blurred vision, six each of headache and ankle pain, and one each of chest pain, bruising, leg numbness, cuts and anxiety.

In terms of daring, bungee jumping apparently is more show than risk, the study said. "Bungee jumping may seem like a death-defying act with high injury potential," but the flexible cord cushions the fall, it said. Parachutists and pole vaulters have a harder jolt.

And even the study's injury total looks worse than it is, said Peter Kockelman, president of Gravity Works in Mountain View, Calif., a bungee-jump platform owner unconnected to the project.

Dizziness accounted for the lion's share of the problems, and dizziness should be expected, Kockelman said. "They have been hanging for a minute," he said. "I challenge anyone to hang upside down for a minute . . . and not have the blood rush to your head."

The study found that 45 had drunk alcohol before jumping; the average was almost three drinks.

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