Rise of extreme bowling blamed by industry
Consumer protection advocates have released a study today showing that bowling-related deaths have seen a 100 percent increase through the first half of 2006 compared to the same period last year.
From January 1, 2005 until June 30, 2005, combined data from the International Bowling Federation (IBF), the Consumer Protection Agency (CPA), the American Council of Surgeons (ACS) and Manny Kowalski from Beloit Lanes in Beloit, Wisconsin (Manny) record two bowling deaths whose primary cause was bowling or bowling equipment. The figure does not include deaths due to natural causes while bowling, deaths due to fights while bowling or deaths due to bowling equipment in the home.
Over the same period this year, there were four bowling deaths due to bowling or bowling equipment.
IBF president Jim Karlin assured the public that bowling is as safe for the average person this year as it was last year. According to Mr. Karlin, “The rise in bowling deaths can be attributed to a small group of individuals engaging in the relatively new and largely unregulated sport of extreme bowling. The risks associated with extreme bowling are much higher than what we see with traditional bowling, but this in no way affects the safety of the average family down at their local lanes.”
Karlin went on to say that the 2005 deaths at Beloit Lanes, a traditional bowling venue, were caused when Manny accidentally turned the power back on while Chris Withers, 32, and Vikram Rashana, 19, were cleaning the pin setting equipment, tragically crushing the victims. This year, however, only one of the deaths took place in a traditional lane. “Of this year’s two deaths,” Karlin specified, “one took place in the half-pipe at an extreme bowling alley and one took place in a traditional bowling alley. So in that sense, we have seen a 50% decrease in deaths at traditional bowling alleys.”
Karlin admitted that it may be time to look into regulating extreme bowling facilities, but that remains outside the purview of his organization as few extreme bowling alleys are IBF members. He underscored the fact that there is no reason to believe that this year’s rise in fatalities indicates that bowling at large has become unsafe and said he still bowls with his family two or three times a week. “As with any sport,” he added, “one should nevertheless always take appropriate safety measures.”
Critics charge that the industry response has not gone far enough. A spokesman for the Citizen’s Ad Hoc Committee for Bowling Safety (CAHCBS) refuted Karlin’s contentions. “The bowling industry has swept this under the rug for long enough because they don’t want to spend the money to make the lanes safe,” said Terry Withers, brother of last year’s victim Chris Withers. “It’s time that the industry stepped up to the plate with motion-controlled power cutoffs in the pin setting machines, with hand guards on the ball returns, and bowling shoes with anti-bacterial linings. If they are unwilling to do so, we will have to take this to our state and federal legislators and impose a legislative solution, and nobody really wants that.”
Mr. Withers said that according to CAHCBS calculations if deaths continue to double every year, in 12 years deaths due to bowling and bowling equipment will outnumber deaths on our nation’s highways. “It may not seem like much, but at the current rate, we’re on pace for eight deaths this year, 16 next year, 32 the year after that and 32,768 deaths twelve years from now. That should worry every parent, every consumer, every bowler” Withers said.