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Thrill rides and brain injuries

In the wake of this weekend's fatality at SF Magic Mountain, the L.A. Times takes a look at the connection between thrill rides and brain injuries.

From Robert Niles
Posted June 5, 2001 at 12:10 PM
In the wake of this weekend's fatality at SF Magic Mountain, the LA Times takes a look at the connection between thrill rides and brain injuries.

Th article only touches on the issue of G force. But to me, that's a more important variable than speed or the number of twists or loops on a ride.

Racing fans will note that CART cancelled a race at Texas Motor Speedway because its drivers were close to blacking out from the G forces they enduring while running around that track. Well, some coasters pull a pretty significant numbers of Gs. And if you've got some underlying health problem (such as an aneurysm--for which no park I know posts health warnings), even temporary exposure to high Gs can be deadly.

And even healthy people can run into problems with sustained exposure to high Gs.

Finally, a reminder that even though theme park accident data is scare, we're trying to fix that at Theme Park Insider. If you haven't yet, check out our accidents page to find out how you can help us build a better accident database.


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From Anonymous
Posted June 16, 2003 at 9:04 PM
You may have an aneurysm, but I doubt it. Go 2 a doctor, get it checked out and don't go on ANY rides unless ur doctor says its ok. An aneurysm is a blood clot in the brain. It is normally in one of the main vains. If an aneurysm bursts, it is very painful for a few seconds, but then you blackout and can be dead within minutes. A new treatment came out recently than can save your life if an aneurysm bursts(because it's easier than whatever they used 2 do) that uses coils somehow. You can look it up on the internet.

From Bryan Fear
Posted June 18, 2003 at 10:50 PM
It's the classic problem of punishing us all because a few select people had an injury that no one could have foreseen. I hear they toned down the Indy Jones ride at Disneyland yet once MORE. If this is true, then pretty soon it will just be "Adventure through Inner Space" all over again. ( Going there next month so Ill find out for sure in person. )

I hear of these injuries all the time. I was even present at Knott's Berry Farm in August 2001 when a woman died on Montezooma's Revenge. ( I may have gotten the month/year wrong, but I was there and overheard the paramedics. ) I recall that she was a model and in the entertainment business and known to starve herself into a more waif-like figure. Of course she had brain problems. Her body wasn't receiving proper nutrition to prepare for a thrill ride. She starved herself into a lesser state of health.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a month later at the same park, an... "overnutritioned" patron was too large for the Plunge and dropped from the boat to her death. In both cases, the resulting inviestigation would only make things toned down and less fun for the rest of us because of circumstances that may not have been anything the park could avoid.

Now Indy has been toned down again?!?! This all reminds me of the ultra-sanitary future protrayed in the movie Demolition Man. Everything fun and interesting will be gone and replaced by the sanitized psuedo-fun that thr resulting ride will turn into.

I see a future with really tame motion simulators filling a park. The roller-coaster will be simulated, the innertube river rapids ride will be simulated, and God forbid if they decide to simulate the restaurants or restrooms.


From Jackie T
Posted December 7, 2003 at 9:43 AM
This subject fascinates me. I hear of g forces and even the military has simulators and does testing with g forces. Just how much can the body withstand? You hear about these people having brain stem detachment/bleeding or aneurism or brain damage. How can we determine what is safe for the average human? Are ride makers ignoring the risks and just giving the public what it wants? A faster scarier ride? More turns twists higher faster? You think with our technology today something could be designed to be safe and be scary at the same time.

From Robert OGrosky
Posted December 8, 2003 at 4:02 PM
I agree with Bryan Fear!!!
A few people, government types and lawyers are trying to use a few cases of injuries/deaths out of the million of rides each year to promote crippling lawsuits against what they feel are deep pocket companies and trying to get government to again over-regulate our daily lives under the false belief that any type of malady can be legislated or sued out of existence.

From Richard Waterson
Posted March 2, 2004 at 9:57 AM
As Tussauds season ticket holder in the UK, I go to a lot of parks every year and am always after bigger, faster coasters to ride. If they started displaying the 'other' warnings that are obviously becoming a problem, then it would make a lot of people I know think twice about riding. Nemesis (a 4.5g suspended coaster), at Alton Towers in the UK, is still, by far, one of my favorite coasters, but I have seen a lot of people coming off, feeling light-headed and in some cases, passing out! When Nemesis first opened 10 years ago, 2 of the UK gladiators (from the TV show), rode it. They came off of the ride very sick and one nearly blacked out! Just goes to show that it could happen to anyone, no matter how fit or healthy you are, and theme park owners need to start putting 'real' warnings up about the rides!

From Nick Boeing
Posted March 15, 2004 at 5:46 PM
The only problem with a ride witht the same problem was the Time Warp at Six Flags Worlds of Adventure. When they hold you upside down I feel the blood rushing to my head and I feel like I will black out.

From Jessica Buchanan
Posted July 28, 2004 at 2:34 PM
About a year ago I went on a ride and as soon as the ride started I started to feel very dizzy and like I was going to faint. Ever since then I have problems with my head-like if a car goes to fast or something I will start feeling very strange and its hard to explain. I also get aches in my ears and my head sometimes. If anyone knows what this might be please e-mail me Babygirl45784@aol.com.

From A. Friend
Posted May 23, 2005 at 5:28 PM
WARNING: any ride that requires you to remove your earrings is trying to tell you that you WILL be bouncing around ... so use that as an indicator... be careful!!!

From Jason Lester
Posted June 2, 2005 at 10:14 PM
I haven't really had problems with roller coasters aside from a few rides where my head gets banged around by the restraints.

Nothing major.

From belinda blake
Posted June 16, 2005 at 8:49 AM
There is one ride I black out on.. and one ride I cant breathe on and completly black out on. That ride I dont go on anymore.. I think of it this way: If you go on the ride and you know you have a tendency to black out or a condition, it's your own fault if something happens.

From Scott Keegan
Posted July 13, 2005 at 3:00 PM
The link for the LA Times story is dead. Do you think that you could post a newer link?

From Robert Niles
Posted July 13, 2005 at 3:27 PM
Unfortunately, the Times has changed its policies, and has put almost all its stories into a paid archive.

(Which is why I've tried to limit the number of links to newspaper stories on TPI in recent months in favor of just offering a summary instead.)

From Shauna Wiley
Posted July 28, 2005 at 5:00 PM
I visited Cedar Point for the first time on Monday, and I rode Millenium Force twice. The first time I was perfectly fine, and the second time I blacked out. I took a benadryl before entering the park tuesday, so I'm not sure if I blacked out from the pill or just because of the G forces. Can medication do that?

From Danny Bernard
Posted July 28, 2005 at 11:24 PM
Im assuming medication can do that depending on the side effects and what your taking it for.
That said I visited Knott's Berry Farm today and had a fairly bad headache when I got there, as a result I couldnt ride much more than Jaguar and the Log Ride without some head pain.

From Kat F
Posted August 7, 2005 at 6:01 AM
I blacked out on nemesis at alton towers and iv never had any problems like that, they need to post clearer warnings and information about the G's etc. so that riders are fully informed- if i had known about the implications with high G's i wouldnt have ridden nemesis!

From Nancy Saunders
Posted March 4, 2006 at 2:32 PM
My family and I visited Orlando 2+ years ago. We had a blast. My daughters were old enough to do ALL the rides and we did! Every head banging one! Four months later while skiing in Vermont, I had a seizure and fell off a ski lift (25 Ft) on my face. I had hardly any injuries from the fall. I was then diagnosed with a giant brain aneurysm, which I may have had my whole life. I have to wonder if the rides had something to do with it all coming to light? I know it was 4 months later, but since then I haven't had a seizure, nor had I ever had one in my life. There is no clear evidence that the 2 were even related. My doctor said there is no evidence to support roller coasters and brain aneurysms and basically told me it was o.k. to go on them. I still have my aneurysm - we're watching it. I will not go on a roller coaster because I had read of this on another site. A support group for brain aneurysms. I'm glad I found this site - every little bit helps for people like me.

From Anthony Murphy
Posted March 4, 2006 at 4:09 PM
I honestly think that there is not a real correlation with Brain Injuries and safe attractions at parks. I mean, if there are a bunch of people getting hurt, then I would look into it, but unfortunitly, stuff happens. I think that no matter if you were on a ride or even driving in a car, the same circumstances could happen and complications can arise. I consider myself lucky that I do not have any of these problems, but much of it also goes undiagnosed. I think people have to use real caution when going on attractions. If you are not really sure, then don't go on it. It is better for you to be safe than be seriously injured.

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