According to a new study published in the May 1 online journal Clinical Pediatrics, nearly 93,000 children under the age of 18 were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for amusement ride-related injuries between 1990 and 2010. Overall, injuries averaged 4,423 a year, with 70 percent occurring during the warm months of May through September.
Researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio looked at injuries to children sustained 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).
According to a Nationwide Children’s Hospital news release, the neck/head region was the most frequently injured, followed by the arms, face, and legs. The most common types of injuries were soft tissue bruises, strains and sprains, cuts and broken bones. Only 2 percent were serious enough to require hospitalization or observation. Nearly one-third of the injuries happened on a fixed-site ride and 12 percent occurred on mall rides.
This is one of the first studies “to identify the rides you encounter in arcades and shopping malls as being an important source of injury,” Gary Smith, MD, DRPH, study senior author and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, told USA TODAY.
The study found that children injured on mall rides tended to be young and were more likely to receive head/neck or face injuries, concussions/closed head injuries, or cuts than children injured on fixed or mobile rides. Nearly three-fourths of the mall-ride injuries occurred when a child fell in, on, off or against a ride. Study authors suggested that mall rides may be placed over hard surfaces and may not have child restraints, increasing the potential for injury.
“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,” said Smith in the hospital news release.
“We need to raise awareness of this issue and determine the best way to prevent injuries from these types of rides,” added Smith.
Smith and his colleagues also called for standardized safety regulations to reduce all amusement ride-related injuries.
“Although the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has jurisdiction over mobile rides, regulation of fixed-sited rides is currently left to state or local governments leading to a fragmented system,” said Smith. “A coordinated national system would help us prevent amusement ride-related injuries through better injury surveillance and more consistent enforcement of standards.”
As the months get warmer, Smith and his colleagues offer the following tips to help parents ensure the safety of their children on amusement rides:
Follow all posted height, age, weight and health restrictions as well as all special seating and/or loading instructions.
Be sure to use all safety equipment, including seat belts, harnesses and safety bars.
Make sure children keep their hands and feet inside the ride at all times.
Know your children – if you don’t think they will be able to follow the rules of the ride, keep them off.
Avoid mall rides if they are over a hard, unpadded surface or if they don’t have seat belts or other child restraints.
Trust your instincts. If you are worried about the safety of a ride, choose a different activity.