Jan. 12, 2000 ST. PAUL, MN - Riding roller coasters may increase the risk of developing potentially harmful blood clots on the brain’s surface, according to a case study in the January 11 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology. These blood clots can compress the brain and may lead to permanent brain damage, seizures or in some cases death. Researchers report a case of a healthy 24-year-old Japanese woman who developed blood clots on the brain’s surface, known as subdural hematomas, after riding several roller coasters while spending the day at a Japanese amusement park. While at the park she rode the Fujiyama, one of the highest and fastest roller coasters in the world. “Although it is rare for people to develop subdural hematomas after riding roller coasters, it can happen,” said neurologist and study author Toshio Fukutake, MD, of Chiba University School of Medicine in Japan. “We suspect that many cases have been overlooked.
“Giant roller coasters which are higher and faster than typical roller coasters may be more dangerous. Managers at amusement parks and people who enjoy these rides need to be aware of the potential health risks.”
Researchers report that the woman developed a headache on her way home from the amusement park. Four days later she sought medical attention for the headache. After a series of tests she was diagnosed with tension headaches and was given muscle relaxants. When the headaches did not improve after two months, the woman was given a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam. Two subdural hematomas were discovered on the MRI.
“The woman’s subdural hematomas and resulting headaches may have been caused by the up-and-down, back-and-forth motions of the roller coaster or the acceleration force may have been strong enough to rupture veins on the surface of her brain,” said Fukutake.
The woman’s subdural hematomas were surgically removed. After the operation her headaches stopped and eight weeks later she was symptom free. A subdural hematoma may cause symptoms which include vomiting, difficulty walking and changes in mental abilities.
Three other cases of people developing subdural hematomas after riding roller coasters were recently reported, according to researchers. Subdural hematomas are extremely rare in young women, Fukutake said. This condition occurs typically in older men with alcoholism, hypertension or diabetes. Other factors that can cause a subdural hematoma include head trauma, falling to a sitting position, severe sneezing or coughing and strain from heavy lifting.
A neurologist is a medical doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system. The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 16,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research.
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