Attorney Jeffery Long of Sacramento, Calif.-based Prout-LeVangie sees a lot of human suffering in his practice. Speaking at the Athletic Business Conference in San Diego this morning on "How to Avoid a Lawsuit," he listed some of his recent cases -- an exerciser whose trainer dropped weights on his chest, a health club member scalded by steam in the steam room and two gentlemen who landed in the ER with chemical burns after 30 minutes in a spa that (apparently) got accidently super-shocked. At the top of the list? Exploding exercise balls, four cases this year alone.

Although it's one of those incidents that sounds comical, it's a great big banana peel for facility owners, Long said. A person sitting or lying across a ball while lifting a set of dumbbells is at great risk of a couple of broken wrists in the case of a ball exploding, Long noted, offering the potential for a significant loss-of-earnings lawsuit. "If you have exercise balls in your facility," he warned seminar attendees, "be scared to death."

Long refused to name names, but he said even well-known ball manufacturers' products shouldn't be trusted blindly. His advice included: inspect balls regularly for any signs of wear (nicks and scratches), keep track of the date each ball went onto the floor, rotate balls in and out of service and, most of all, "Replace them on a regular schedule, regardless of what your inspections turn up."