Amusement park injuries are not amusing

According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), billions of people worldwide have visited amusement parks in calendar years 2003–2015, consuming junk food and taking part in exciting thrill rides.1 In the U.S. alone, 335 million guests went to 400 amusement parks and safely enjoyed 1.6 billion rides in 2015.1 According to a 2013 study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy (which is affiliated with The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital) in the 20-year span between 1990 and 2010, more than 90,000 children younger than 18 years old sought medical attention for amusement park-related injuries (including fixed-site, mobile-site, and arcades), which averages out to more than 4,400 injuries in this population per year.2 Nonetheless, the chance of being seriously injured (requiring immediate hospitalization and admission for more than 24 hours) from a fixed-site ride (a ride that is part of a permanent amusement park) is estimated at one in 16 million.1

Ride at your own risk

A comprehensive study of roller coaster-related fatalities in the U.S. revealed that in the 10-year period from 1994 to 2004, a total of 40 people ages seven to 77 years old died from injuries sustained on these rides, averaging out to about four fatalities per year. Of these fatalities, 18 resulted from exacerbation of preexisting medical conditions, with the remaining 22 attributable to external trauma.3 To put these data into perspective, the chance of being hit by lightning is 16 times greater than being seriously injured on a roller coaster.4

To examine the occurrence of amusement park-related injuries contained in the National Trauma Data Bank® (NTDB®) research dataset admission year 2016, medical records were searched using the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, Clinical Modification codes. Specifically searched were records that contained a place of occurrence code of Y92.831 (amusement park). A total of 238 records were found, 204 contained a discharge status, including 186 patients discharged to home, 10 to acute care/rehab, and seven to skilled nursing facilities; one patient died. Of the patients, 57 percent were male, on average 29.4 years old, had an average hospital length of stay of 3.2 days, an intensive care unit length of stay of 3.9 days, an average injury severity score of 7.9, and were on the ventilator for an average of 3.8 days (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Hospital discharge status

Figure 1. Hospital discharge status

Remind your patients that amusement park safety is a partnership between the park and the patron. The IAAPA has created a list of amusement ride safety tips, including the following: Adhere to posted age, height, weight, and health restrictions; observe all posted safety rules and follow verbal instructions from ride operators; keep hands, arms, legs, and feet inside the ride at all time; be sure to secure loose articles such as wallets, phones, hats, and glasses; do not board a ride impaired; and remain seated until the ride comes to a complete stop. After all, there is nothing amusing about being injured at an amusement park. For more safety tips, visit the IAAPA website.

Throughout the year, we highlight NTDB data through brief monthly reports in the Bulletin. The NTDB Annual Report 2016 is available on the American College of Surgeons website as a PDF file. In addition, information is available on the NTDB web page about how to obtain NTDB data for more detailed study. To submit your trauma center’s data, contact Melanie L. Neal, Manager, NTDB, at


Statistical support for this column was provided by Ryan Murphy, Data Analyst, NTDB.


  1. International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. Amusement ride fun. Available at: Accessed April 30, 2017.
  2. Nationwide Children’s Hospital. New study finds 20 children a day during the summer are treated in U.S. emergency departments for amusement ride-related injuries. Available at: Accessed April 30, 2017.
  3. Pelletier AR, Gilchrist J. Roller coaster related fatalities, United States, 1994–2004. Inj Prev. 2005;11:309–312.Available at: Accessed April 30, 2017.
  4. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. How dangerous is lightning? Available at: Accessed April 30, 2017.

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