Roller Coaster Risks - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

1/21/03

Roller Coaster Risks

This latest health headline comes from Six Flags. That's where neurosurgeons and even space shuttle astronauts have converged to study brain trauma, and the latest findings in the roller coaster debate are that those thrill rides do not pose a brain trauma risk as some studies have suggested.

"The panel concluded that there are no data available establishing any kind of causal link between g-forces on amusement park rides and neurological injury," says Robert Harbaugh, American Association of Neurosurgeons.

Six Flags hired those scientists to look at roller coaster rides. This after Massachusetts Congressman Edward Markey created a stir in Congress last year releasing a tally of 58 brain trauma cases over the past 10 years allegedly tied to the g-forces on roller coasters. G-forces describes the force of speed that throws you against the back of your seat when you're going super fast.

Congressman Markey noted eight of those reported brain trauma cases were fatal. That's why the amusement park industry hired its own investigation arguing that the concerns are based on a handful of reported injuries -- when millions ride roller coasters every year. Now, the Brain Injury Association of America is preparing its response.

"If prevention of any type of brain injury is trivialized, whether its bicycle helmets, ski helmets, whatever, it tends to make individuals and society complacent," says Dr. Gregory O'Shanick, Brain Injury Association of America.

So, the debate isn't over yet. The amusement park industry wanted to get a word in first. Next month, Congressman Markey and the Brain Injury Association of America will have their say on an issue that may yet prompt more regulatory debate in Congress.

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