Amusement Rides Injure More Than 4,000 Children Each Year In The US
May 1, 2013

Amusement Rides Injure More Than 4,000 Children Each Year In The US

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Children and adults alike love the adrenaline rush that comes with amusement rides. However, while these racers, twisters, spinners and droppers can send a wave of exciting emotions running through the body, they can be dangerous as well.

According to new research from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children´s Hospital (NCH), nearly 93,000 children were treated in US emergency rooms between 1990 and 2010 for amusement ride-related accidents and injuries. That is an average of roughly 4,423 injuries per year, or more than 12 per day. In most northern states ride injuries occur mainly during the summer months when amusement parks and fair grounds are open for business. In these settings the overall injury rate equates to an average of 20 injuries per day.

Amusement rides include rides at amusement parks (fixed-site rides), rides at fairs (mobile rides), and rides found at malls and stores (mall rides).

The study, published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, found that the most frequent injuries sustained from amusement ride accidents were around the head and neck, accounting for 28 percent of injuries. Those were followed by arm injuries (24 percent), face injuries (18 percent) and leg injuries (17 percent).

The most common type of injury was soft tissue injuries (29 percent). The next most common injury types were strains and sprains (21 percent), cuts and abrasions (20 percent) and broken bones (10 percent).

The research further uncovered that despite an overwhelming number of injuries reported over the past two decades hospitalization rates were relatively low, suggesting that serious injuries are rare. However, during the busy summer months, the researchers found that “there is an amusement ride-related injury that is serious enough to require hospitalization once every three days on average.”

The most common reason for an injury was falling (32 percent), followed by hitting a body part on the ride or being hit by something while riding (18 percent). The most common injuries came from fixed-site rides (33 percent), followed by mobile rides (29 percent) and then mall rides (12 percent).

Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at NCH, and professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University (OSU) College of Medicine, said that while the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) holds jurisdiction over mobile rides found at fairs, carnivals and festivals, it is up to state and local governments to regulate fixed-site rides. This type of regulatory oversight is “leading to a fragmented system,” he noted.

A recent USA Today report states that only 24 states have a comprehensive regulatory and investigative program when it comes to amusement rides. However, six states — Alabama, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming — have no regulations at all.

"A coordinated national system would help us prevent amusement ride-related injuries through better injury surveillance and more consistent enforcement of standards," said Dr. Smith.

The researchers also found that injuries sustained from mall rides differed from those sustained at both mobile and fixed-site rides. Mall ride injuries were more likely head, neck and face injuries, and more likely were concussions or cuts. And nearly 75 percent of injuries sustained at mall rides occurred after a fall. The study team believes the reason is that most of these types of rides are placed on hard surfaces and many may not have proper child restraints.

"Injuries from smaller amusement rides located in malls, stores, restaurants and arcades are typically given less attention by legal and public health professionals than injuries from larger amusement park rides, yet our study showed that in the U.S. a child is treated in an emergency department, on average, every day for an injury from an amusement ride located in a mall, store, restaurant or arcade," said Dr. Smith. "We need to raise awareness of this issue and determine the best way to prevent injuries from these types of rides."

According to data from the CPSC, accidents involving amusement rides of all types cause more than 6,000 injuries per year.

This was the first study to describe national rates of pediatric injury from amusement rides treated in US ER departments. Data for the study was obtained from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which is operated by the CPSC.