Fri, Apr 06, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Doctors warn of amusement park risks

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Amusement parks with roller coasters and water slides are a favorite for family outings. However, most people are unaware that the rapid acceleration and deceleration associated with the fun and excitement could also cause spinal injury and even death for an unfortunate minority.

Although lax enforcement of safety protocols is a major source of risk, doctors say that individuals who are more injury-prone are often unaware of their vulnerabilities.

"I would never let my children go on a water slide," Taipei Veterans General Hospital neurology surgeon Tsai Ming-da (蔡明達) said.

Tsai recalled a case of a woman who became paralyzed after a water slide ride went wrong.

"She went down the water slide ahead of her niece," Tsai said. "Unfortunately, her niece was heavier than her and the latter therefore went down the slide much faster."

"Before she could find her footing, her niece had caught up with her," he said. "The niece's feet hit her neck scissor-like, smashing the first and second vertebrae."

By the time lifeguards had come to her rescue, she had already lost use of her limbs. By the time she reached the emergency room, she had trouble breathing.

After years of recovery, the woman still has not regained use of her limbs, Tsai said.

"People with vertebrae that are narrower than normal are more likely to get fractures. Those with undetected blood vessel tumors in their brains also risk rupture under extreme acceleration," Tsai said.

"The problem is, until something has gone wrong, those people are oblivious to their condition," he said.

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