Plans for the “Splash 'n' Bash” belly flop contest at Mahoney State Park went splat after park officials became concerned about the safety of participants.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission issued a short cancellation notice Monday, saying the contest planned for Saturday was canceled “for safety reasons.” A buffalo burger meal and live music after the event were also canceled.
“It was just one of those things that sounded like a good idea a couple of months ago, but didn't seem like such a good idea as we got closer,” said Kirk Nelson, a spokesman for Game and Parks. “I think we got out a little too far on the fun line.”
Nelson said officials became concerned that young children would become involved and that they could be injured. Children are more apt to be injured than adults, he said, because they have less belly fat to protect them.
“We're not going to stop anyone from doing a belly flop at the pool, but we didn't think it was our place to hold a competition,” Nelson said.
Sunny Slope Pool in Omaha holds a belly flop contest every Fourth of July. Phillip Schorg, manager at Sunny Slope, said the event always draws a big crowd and produces a lot of belly laughs.
“We do it off a 3-foot board into 10 feet of water,” Schorg said. “There are a few little red bellies, some belly stings and a good time for everyone involved.”
The best divers hit the pool spread eagled with their arms and legs fully extended, he said.
“I can't recall anyone ever getting hurt,” Schorg said.
A prominent sports medicine doctor from Los Angeles told CNN last month that belly flopping rarely causes serious injury, but it can be harmful.
Dr. Sonu Ahluwalia, clinical chief of orthopedic surgery at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, told CNN that belly flops are more dangerous from higher levels.
Ahluwalia said the most common injuries are contusions or bruising of the skin. Rarely do these bruises go deeper and affect internal organs, but they can.
“Deeper abdominal injury from belly flops is known as blunt abdominal trauma,” he said. “It can affect organs such as the liver, kidney, pancreas and the bowels.''
He said the combination of the abdomen taking the brunt of the landing at high velocity and sudden deceleration can cause trauma to the organs.
Children are more vulnerable than adults, because they have less abdominal fat and a relatively larger abdominal cavity.
After a belly flop, it is normal for the skin to sting for a while, Ahluwalia said. If the pain is persistent, or if you see blood in your urine or stool, you should see a doctor right away.
Schorg said “only two or three” of the 25 to 30 contestants at this year's Sunny Slope belly flop contest had red bellies. Most of the contestants, he said, are adult males.
“They're dads in their 30s or 40s who are just good old family guys,” Schorg said. “Like I said, it's a whole lot of fun.”