Bungee Jumping Problems

By Justin Schamotta

The widely reported feelings of euphoria after a bungee jump are produced by the more than 200 percent increase in B-endorphin immunoreactivity. The associated increases in blood pressure, heart rate and amount of blood leukocytes, however, suggest that a number of the body's systems could be more negatively affected. There are also several individual examples of problems that may result from this relatively new activity.

General Injuries

Injuries and deaths associated with bungee jumping are not frequent but happen enough for there to be cause for concern. Examples include jumpers falling victim to peroneal nerve palsy and quadriplegia. Reports of less severe trauma have been numerous. One survey found that half of the jumpers at a site had a medical complaint after their jump. These ranged from headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, numbness of the leg and muscular pain.

Safety

Technician error and equipment failure have been the most heavily reported problems associated with bungee jumping since its beginning in 1955. One such fatal accident resulted from the bungee rope failing to absorb the accumulated potential energy of the falling person. This caused the rope to break as the jumper reached the bottom.

General Eye Problems

Bungee jumpers have presented doctors with a wide range of eye problems including bilateral subconjunctival chemosis and hemorrhages, periorbital bruising and retinal hemorrhages. One study, reported in the American Journal of Opthalmology, described four patients with severe bungee cord-related contusion injuries. These included retinal detachment, corneal abrasion, lens subluxation, iridodialysis, hyphema, secondary glaucoma, vitreous hemorrhage and retinal detachment. Three patients required eye surgery and all four suffered anterior chamber angle recession, which required repeated attention.

Orbital Emphysema

Scientists writing in the journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise described one 28-year-old bungee jumper who dived off a 160-foot high bridge that crossed a river. The finale of the jump was that the man's head dipped into the river. However, the sudden immersion resulted in such an increase in air pressure inside the nose and sinuses that it led to an orbital emphysema. This takes shape in the form of a huge swelling beneath the eye. It was cured in five days by a course of antibiotics.

Retinal Hemorrhage

The possibility of retinal hemorrhage means that bungee jumpers may run the risk of losing their eyesight. One 23-year-old female bungee jumper suffered this type of retinal complication. Scientists writing in the journal of International Ophthalmology described her right eye's fundi as showing superficial retinal hemorrhages. Her left eye presented a sub-internal limiting membrane hemorrhage.

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