Too Much Fun? Know the Risks of TBIs from Amusement Park Rides

For many people, especially children, amusement parks are a lot of fun. Millions of people go to amusement parks each year – many in Tennessee. Each year, the rides seems to go faster and higher. While the bumper cars, carousels, Ferris wheels, and hall of mirrors attract many, the biggest draws are the roller coaster rides. More and more, doctors and researchers are beginning to question how safe these wild rides are for the brain.

While there is always a risk that someone may fall from the roller-coaster and die, the new cause for concern is that the heads and brains of the riders go excessively fast with lots of contortions and movements during the ride. The fear is that these harsh movements and speeds are causing the brain to jostle about in the skull, causing a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

A recent ABC news story reviewed some of the concerns. The gravitational force exerted on these rides is a growing issue – so much so that New Jersey, which is famous for many amusement rides in Atlantic City and across the Jersey shore, became the first state to regulate the gravitational forces on roller coaster rides.

Dr. Jamshid Ghajar, a neurosurgeon at Cornell University’s Weill Medical College and president of the Brain Trauma Foundation, said that the American Association of Neurological Surgeons has compiled a group of neurosurgeons and NASA engineers to study the effects of roller coaster rides on the brain.

Rapid movement is known to cause injury to the brain, even though the skull and internal liquids are supposed to protect the brain. Roller coaster rides, which can go as fast at 80 mph, exert higher G-forces on the brain than is normal. The force can make the rider feel six times heavier than they actually are. The rider’s head can be thrown around as the roller coaster accelerates and turns.

According to Douglas Smith, a University of Pennsylvania neurosurgery associate professor, the brain actually changes shape when the G-forces are heavy, which can cause stretching or compressive forces that might result in injury.

Dr. Ghajar stated that older riders and those with pre-existing conditions, such as high blood pressure or spinal injuries, are more at risk for a TBI than children. Still, parents are cautioned to monitor their children after rides. Symptoms, such as dizziness, confusion, and headaches, may not appear for hours or even days after the ride.

Who is liable for an amusement park TBI?

Liability for traumatic brain injuries on roller coaster rides can vary. The designers and operators of the rides may be liable, especially if state or local laws regulate what G-forces are permissible and what G-forces are against the law.

Amusement park visitors can suffer a TBI for other reasons, such as a fall or being struck by an object. When this happens, the property owners and operators can be held liable for not protecting their patrons.

If you or your child is feeling ill or needed to get medical care because of their day at an amusement park, the Nashville traumatic brain injury attorneys at the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, are ready to fight to get you damages for your injuries. To speak with one of our Gladiators in Suits in Nashville, Hendersonville, or Knoxville, call 615-425-2500 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.