Head motions while riding roller coasters: Implications for brain injury

Bryan J. Pfister, Larry Chickola, Douglas H. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

The risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI) while riding roller coasters has received substantial attention. Case reports of TBI around the time of riding roller coasters have led many medical professionals to assert that the high gravitational forces (G-forces) induced by roller coasters pose a significant TBI risk. Head injury research, however, has shown that G-forces alone cannot predict TBI. Established head injury criterions and procedures were employed to compare the potential of TBI between daily activities and roller coaster riding. Three-dimensional head motions were measured during 3 different roller coaster rides, a pillow fight, and car crash simulations. Data was analyzed and compared with published data, using similar analyses of head motions. An 8.05 m/s car crash lead to the largest head injury criterion measure of 28.1 and head impact power of 3.41, over 6 times larger than the roller coaster rides of 4.1 and 0.36. Notably, the linear and rotational components of head acceleration during roller coaster rides were milder than those induced by many common activities. As such, there appears to be an extremely low risk of TBI due to the head motions induced by roller coaster rides.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-345
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology
Volume30
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

Keywords

  • G-forces
  • Head injury
  • Injury risk
  • Roller coaster

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