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Do roller coasters get a bad rap for brain injuries?

The amusement park season is almost over again for the year -- but the debates about brain safety and roller coasters are still going on. There's an ongoing worry that gravitational forces (g-forces) from roller coasters are causing brain damage -- the fear has been enough to cause New Jersey to limit how much gravitational force a roller coaster can exert on someone.

Do high-velocity roller coasters put people at unnecessary risk of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)? Could the rides just be getting a bad rap -- an undeserved reputation for danger?

Probably so.

Studies done on three groups of people -- those on roller coaster rides with significant g-forces involved, those in car accidents where they were hit by someone driving 5 mph and people struck in the head during a pillow fight -- were all studied. All three actions produce some of the same head motions, but all three events -- which each produced intense physical reactions -- still fell below what scientists expect to see in order to actually cause a TBI.

It's important to note, however, that while the risk of a TBI on a roller coaster is probably less than the risk you're taking just driving to the park itself, that doesn't mean that the risk is zero.

Further studies may also be needed to determine just how much damage the brain might be receiving from the rapid acceleration of g-forces alone.

In the meantime, experts do say some people should probably skip roller coaster rides:

  • Those who have suffered a previous stroke
  • Those with high blood pressure
  • Those with previous spinal injuries
  • Those who have already suffered a TBI

In addition, it's important to take precautions. If anyone in your group gets off a roller coaster ride feeling dizzy, sick, disoriented or experiencing a sudden headache, notify the park authorities and seek medical attention immediately.

If you or someone you love has suffered a TBI, it's wise to talk to an attorney about the possibility of a lawsuit in order to protect your rights.

Source: ABC News, "Can Fast Roller Coasters Cause Brain Injury?," accessed Aug. 31, 2017

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