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February 25, 2003 - Brain Injury Association of America's Blue Ribbon Roller Coaster Panel Announces Findings and Recommendations During News Conference

A team of leading medical doctors, scientists, epidemiologists, and industry experts today announced their findings and recommendations during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., as part of the Brain Injury Association of America's Blue Ribbon Panel to review the correlation between brain injury and roller coaster rides.

The review, which is the most comprehensive, non-industry sponsored review to date, came at the request of Congressmen Ed Markey (MA-7) and Bill Pascrell (NJ-8), as well as 10 additional members of Congress and was funded in part by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Markey provided the Panel with evidence that over a 38-year period 57 injuries including 6 deaths reportedly associated with roller coasters occurred. These cases, as well as other existing data and literature, were reviewed by the Panel.

"More than 12 months ago, the Association was contacted by Congress to conduct a thorough, dispassionate review of existing literature on roller coasters and brain injury," Allan I.Bergman, President and CEO of the Association said at this morning's conference. "And I'm pleased to announce that thanks to the diligent efforts of this distinguished blue ribbon panel - we have accomplished that goal."

Among the findings that members of the panel announced were:

Roller coaster rides pose a health risk to some people some of the time - At-risk populations such as pregnant women, persons with heart conditions, epilepsy, back or neck injury or prior orthopedic surgery, among others, are already warned against riding.

Existing data is insufficient - No systematically acquired comprehensive database, longitudinal history or natural history data was available.

Linear and angular acceleration measurement methodology is questionable - Location and type of accelerometers were found to be less than ideal and not as directly relevant as desired.

The accelerations experienced by roller coaster riders are far below those tolerated by healthy subjects in experimental testing. - The highest advertised roller coaster acceleration levels are 6 g's for one second. By comparison, the lowest reported threshold for a healthy individual before blackout can occur is 5.5 g's over five seconds.

The risk of brain injury from a roller coaster is not in the rides, but in the riders - It is already established that there are some people who should not ride roller coasters.

The panel made the following recommendations:

It is unlikely that a federal agency could match the amusement park industry's self-monitoring.

Future research on risk factors, high frequency riders, or individuals with prior brain injury could be of potential importance.

Surveillance methodology through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) could be developed to monitor and track roller coaster associated injury-related complaints.

Riders should use common sense.

A nationwide oversight agency similar to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Organizations (JCAHO) model could be developed.

"Clearly, there are many issues of importance as we work to prevent brain injury," Bergman said. "However, the work of this panel helps to put to rest the fear of brain injury from riding roller coasters, which have gotten faster and taller over the past few years as they compete for our attention. As we head into spring and the return to outdoor activities, such as riding bikes or skateboarding, responsible parents should focus their attention on making sure their children wear helmets and take other safety precautions."

The Association's blue ribbon panel began evaluating and reviewing the existing scientific and industry data of roller coasters in July 2002 to critically analyze its scientific merit. This activity culminated in a meeting convened over a three-day period in Alexandria, Virginia in November 2002 to finalize the conclusions and develop a series of recommendations based upon a dispassionate, objective review of all relevant materials.

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