Afraid to let your children enjoy a rollercoaster at amusement parks? Fresh research suggests the humble carousel actually accounts for more injuries, a result no doubt reflecting in the younger clientele found on the age-old fair attractions.
The findings of the study, published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, found that 20 children a day were treated at emergency departments in the United States during the peak summer months as a result of amusement ride-related mishaps.
The researchers’ investigation of emergency records revealed that roller coasters accounted for 10 percent of all injuries to children at amusement parks, while bumper cars accounted for 4 percent. However, carousels were behind 20.9 percent of injuries, which explains why a third of children hurt were five or younger, the researchers said.
Falls were the most common kind of amusement park accident resulting in injuries.
The study was conducted by researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio.
Their examination included rides at amusement parks (fixed-site rides), rides at fairs and festivals (mobile rides) and rides found at local malls, stores, restaurants or arcades (mall rides).
They found that from 1990 to 2010, 92,885 children under the age of 18 were treated in United States emergency departments for amusement ride-related injuries for an average of 4423 injuries each year.
More than 70 percent of the injuries occurred during the warm summer months of May through September – equating to more than 20 injuries a day during these months.
The study found that the head and neck region was the most frequently injured (28 percent), followed by the arms (24 percent), face (18 percent) and legs (17 percent). Soft tissue injuries (29 percent) were the most common injury type followed by strains and sprains (21 percent), cuts (20 percent) and broken bones (10 percent).
The overall percentage of injuries requiring hospitalization or observation was low, suggesting that serious injuries are relatively rare.
However, during the summer months, May to September, there is an amusement ride-related injury that is serious enough to require hospitalization once every three days on average.
Injuries were most likely to be sustained as the result of a fall (32 percent), or by either hitting a part of a body on a ride or being hit by something while riding (18 percent).
Nearly one-third (33 percent) of injuries occurred on a fixed-site ride, followed by mobile rides (29 percent) and “mall” rides (12 percent).
“Although the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has jurisdiction over mobile rides, regulation of fixed-site rides is currently left to state or local governments leading to a fragmented system,” said the study’s senior author, Dr Gary Smith, who is the director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy of Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
“A co-ordinated national system would help us prevent amusement ride-related injuries through better injury surveillance and more consistent enforcement of standards.”
The study also found that injuries associated with “mall rides” differed from fixed-site and mobile rides. They were more likely to be head,neck or face injuries, concussions/closed head injuries or cuts than were injuries associated with fixed-site or mobile rides.
Almost three-quarters of the “mall ride” injuries occurred when a child fell in, on, off or against the ride. These types of rides may be placed over hard surfaces and may not have child restraints, which contributes to the injury risk.
Dr Smith, who is also a professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, said: “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.
“We need to raise awareness of this issue and determine the best way to prevent injuries from these types of rides.”
Tips for keeping safe on amusement rides include:
- Always follow all posted height, age, weight and health restrictions.
- Make sure to follow any special seating order and/or loading instructions.
- Always use safety equipment such as seat belts and safety bars.
- Keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times.
- Know your child. If you don’t think he/she will be able to follow the rules, keep him/her off the ride.
- Trust your instincts. If you are worried about the safety of the ride, choose a different activity.
- Avoid “mall rides” if they are over a hard, unpadded surface or if they don’t have a child restraint such as a seat belt.
This is the first study to describe national rates of pediatric injury involving amusement rides treated in US emergency departments. Information for the study was obtained from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which is operated by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The NEISS provides information on consumer product-related and sports and recreation-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments across the country.
The Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital works globally to reduce injury-related pediatric deaths and disabilities.