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Bungee Cords Can Cause Serious Eye Injury, Blindness, Doctors Warn

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WebMD Health News

May 2, 2000 (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) -- Throw away your bungee cords and use ropes instead to tie down your gear when you're loading the top of the car for the family vacation or the trip back from the hardware store, say eye doctors who treat people with eye injuries.

Over a five-year period, eye trauma specialists at the Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia treated 67 patients with moderate-to-severe injuries to the eye from bungee cords -- elastic tie-down straps with J-shaped or S-shaped metal hooks at either end. These are the cords that parents always struggle with as they're trying to pack up the gear and head out of town.

The patients sustained injuries when the hooks either straightened out and lost their grip under heavier-than-normal loads, broke apart from the strap, or came loose when the load was being tied down. The hooks snapped back at the user, struck the eye, and, in some cases, inflicted injuries severe enough to cause them to lose all sight in the affected eye -- or even to lose the eye itself.

"We're proposing that these hooks be redesigned with a gated clip that would prevent the hook from becoming disengaged from the object it's secured to," says lead researcher Anthony J. Aldave, MD, senior ophthalmology resident at Wills Eye Hospital of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, in an interview with WebMD. "People have proposed this before, and, yes, it would cost a little more for the manufacturers to redesign these hooks. But the fact is that a simple modification could probably have prevented the vast majority of these injuries."

"I agree in general that a redesign would help, but what I advise my patients is: Just don't use a bungee cord, period. Just use a rope," Eugene S. Lit, MD, tells WebMD. Lit, the director of the eye trauma service at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston, was not involved in the Philadelphia study, which was reported here Tuesday at an eye research meeting.

In the study, more than half of the patients who came into the emergency room for a bungee cord-sustained eye injury required hospitalization for treatment of the injuries, which included bleeding within the eye, lacerations to the eye, traumatic cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye as a result of the blow), and tearing or detachment of the retina from the back of the eye. The retina is the tissue lining the inside of the eye that acts as a screen on which images are captured and transmitted to the brain. Most of the damaged eyes had a mild-to-serious loss of vision, 15% had no useful vision, and three patients had injuries that were so severe that the eyes had to be surgically removed.

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