By RYAN CLARK
The Columbus Dispatch
As summer draws near, students will soon be freed from the confines of their classrooms and flock toward amusement parks, festivals and fairs.
But what they and their parents might not know is that more than 4,000 children throughout the country visit emergency rooms every year for treatment of injuries linked to amusement rides, according to a study by researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
The study estimated that 92,885 children younger than 18 were injured from 1990 to 2010.
Injuries spiked during the summer months when kids were not in school and amusement parks and fairs were their busiest. About 70 percent of the injuries occurred between May and September.
The study found that head and neck injuries were the most common, and that falling in, on, off or against a ride was the most common way injuries occurred.
Researchers wanted to take a better look at amusement-ride injuries because little information is available, said Dr. Gary Smith, senior author of the study and director of the center at Children’s.
One of the major findings was that about 12 percent of injuries occurred on rides at malls, stores, restaurants or arcades.
“You typically hear about injuries on roller coasters and the big rides, but we knew there was a much bigger picture,” Smith said. “A lot of children get injured at carnivals, local arcades and on coin-operated rides.”
About 34 percent of injuries occurred on rides at fixed sites such as King’s Island and about 29 percent on the mobile rides that travel with carnivals and fairs.
The study looked at roller coasters, bumper cars, merry-go-rounds, mechanical bulls, coin-operated rides and other attractions.
Smith said the study was not intended to frighten or alarm people, but instead to educate.
The findings are important because they inform riders, parents, manufacturers and officials about trends and allow them to make educated decisions, he said.
“Overall, rides are safe,” Smith said. “But I think we can do much better.”
A simple way to decrease hospital visits, Smith said, is to require better restraints on mall rides and to have padding around them in case of a fall.
The study used data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which provides information about injuries treated in hospital emergency departments throughout the country. Researchers used that data to create estimates about total injuries.