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Concept: Roller coaster



With 300 million riders annually, roller coasters are a popular recreational activity. Although the number of roller coaster injuries is relatively low, the precise effect of roller coaster rides on our brain remains unknown. Here we present the quantitative characterization of brain displacements and deformations during roller coaster rides. For two healthy adult male subjects, we recorded head accelerations during three representative rides, and, for comparison, during running and soccer headers. From the recordings, we simulated brain displacements and deformations using rigid body dynamics and finite element analyses. Our findings show that despite having lower linear accelerations than sports head impacts, roller coasters may lead to brain displacements and strains comparable to mild soccer headers. The peak change in angular velocity on the rides was 9.9rad/s, which was higher than the 5.6rad/s in soccer headers with ball velocities reaching 7m/s. Maximum brain surface displacements of 4.0mm and maximum principal strains of 7.6% were higher than in running and similar to soccer headers, but below the reported average concussion strain. Brain strain rates during roller coasters were similar as those in running, and lower than those in soccer header. Strikingly, on the same ride and at a similar position, the two subjects experienced significantly different head kinematics and brain deformation. These results indicate head motion and brain deformation during roller coaster rides are highly sensitive to individual subjects. While our study suggests that roller coaster rides do not present an immediate risk of acute brain injury, their long-term effects require further longitudinal study.

Concepts: Acceleration, Velocity, Kinematics, Rigid body, Deformation, Rigid body dynamics, Angular velocity, Roller coaster


Theme park operators and medical professionals advise children with heart conditions against using rollercoaster rides, but these recommendations are not evidence-based. The underlying assumption is that the combination of adrenergic stimulation through stress and acceleration might trigger arrhythmias in susceptible individuals. We conducted a cross-sectional observational study to assess heart rate and rhythm in healthy children during commercial rollercoaster rides. Twenty healthy children (9 male) aged 11-15 (mean 13.3 ± 1.4) years underwent continuous heart rate and rhythm monitoring (2-lead ECG) from 5 min before until 10 min after each of 4 high speed (>50 km h(-1)), high g-force (>4) commercial rollercoaster rides. Total recording time was 13 h 20 min. No arrhythmic events were detected. Resting heart rate was 81 ± 10 b min(-1) and increased to 158 ± 20 b·min(-1) during rides. The highest mean HR (165 ± 23 b min(-1)) was observed on the ride with the lowest g-force (4.5 g), but one of the highest speeds (100 km h(-1)). Anticipatory tachycardia (126 ± 15 b min(-1)) within 5 min was frequently observed. A 10 min recovery HR (124 ± 17 b min(-1)) was 56 % greater than resting HR. The speed and g-force experienced on roller coasters induce sinus tachycardia but do not elicit pathological arrhythmias in healthy children.

Concepts: Scientific method, Cardiology, Heart, Medical emergencies, Cardiac arrest, Cardiac electrophysiology, Cardiac dysrhythmia, Roller coaster


Traumatic head injuries not involving the eye have been known to cause retinal injury through multiple mechanisms. Abusive head trauma remains the prototypical example. We propose to demonstrate the first case of bilateral multiple retinal hemorrhages in a young healthy adult related to riding multiple theme park roller coasters.

Concepts: Injuries, Subarachnoid hemorrhage, Diffuse axonal injury, Concussion, Head injury, Amusement park, Roller coaster, Cedar Point


About 20 cases of cerebrovascular accidents in amusement parks have been documented. However, only a few cases of amusement park stroke (APS) after roller coaster rides have been reported. Here, we present triggers of stroke, clinical characteristics, and the angiographic appearance of 3 consecutive patients of APS. Their clinical characteristics included young age, absence of atherosclerotic risk factors, and severe injuries. Serial changes in angiographic appearance led to the diagnosis of cervicocephalic artery dissection (CAD). Patients A and B were diagnosed with isolated middle cerebral artery (MCA) dissection, and patient C was diagnosed with internal carotid artery dissection involving MCA dissection. Running excitedly toward an attraction in patient A, a go-kart ride in patient B, and riding in an enhanced motion vehicle in patient C were considered as the likely triggers for APS. We had specific cases with APS associated with CAD, which can occur under diverse contexts other than roller coaster rides at amusement parks. Our findings suggest that the variable directions of the high gravitational forces induced by vehicle riding or running excitedly might injure the MCA or internal carotid artery, and thereby cause CAD in the amusement park.

Concepts: Atherosclerosis, Stroke, Middle cerebral artery, Internal carotid artery, Common carotid artery, Anterior cerebral artery, Amusement park, Roller coaster