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Thanks to heavy infomercial advertising featuring hard bodies, Bowflex machines have sold by the millions.
Priced at $1,200 and up, the Bowflex Power Pro models are high-end home fitness equipment. But now the government is warning that on certain models of the Bowflex Power Pro with a "lat" tower, the bench can collapse and break, and the lat tower may fall.
"The tower can come loose and fall forward while you're using the machine," said Hal Stratton, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which announced the recall Thursday. In fact, 73 people who were just trying to get a workout on the Bowflex Power Pro wound up in pain, with back, neck, and head injuries. While the company says most of the injuries were minor, some required stitches.
Though the recall was just announced, Bowflex first heard from an injured customer more than five years ago, according to Gregg Hammann, who runs the company.
"The very first injury with this machine that we have on record was back in 1998," said Hammann, president and CEO of Nautilus, which makes Bowflex. "And it was on the backboard."
The Incredible Hulk Defense
When Good Morning America interviewed Hammann by speaker phone, he came up with what we call the "Incredible Hulk defense." Bowflex users became so strong that they ended up breaking the machines.
"We've had to upgrade this backboard to make sure it can support the kind of stress load that some of these very in-shape people are now doing," Hammann said.
But didn't the manufacturers realize that the people using the Bowflex were going to get stronger?
"Well, we certainly hoped people were going to get stronger," Hammann said. He says the equipment has always exceeded safety standards. And in the years after the 1998 injury, it modified the Power Pro and sent out repair kits three different times.
"We talked to each one of our customers that purchased our units, and we were able to track those," Hammann said. Bowflex told the customers that there was a safety problem.
"We told them that there was a potential for the backboard to break, and that we wanted to make sure we got them an upgraded unit," Hammann said. Nautilus has created a repair kit for the Bowflex Power Pro machines equipped with a lat tower attachment. The owners of the estimated 420,000 machines can get the free kit by contacting Nautilus. (www.bowflex.com)
Government Insisted on Recall
But although Bowflex may have told their customers about the problem they did not tell government safety regulators, who would ultimately insist on this "voluntary" recall.
"I would just say we went though some fairly lengthy and serious negotiations to get them to come to terms," Stratton said.
The recall does not include Power Pro models without the lat tower attachment, nor does it include any models of the Bowflex Motivator, Ultimate, Xtreme or Versatrainer. And Hammann says the 70 cases represent only about .02 percent of units sold under the Power Pro designation, and less than .01 percent of the Bowflex line.
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