Who Should Avoid Amusement Park Thrill Rides?


6 Min Read

Those with heart and spinal problems, pregnant women, children, and the elderly should avoid thrill rides. Erratic heartbeats from steep drops, sharp turns, and breathless acceleration can cause issues like sinus arrhythmias. Recurrent jerks may displace placenta from a pregnant woman's uterus. Consider muscle and bone strength, and spinal health when deciding to get on a ride or allowing a child to do so.

Thrill seekers swear by the rush you feel after an amusement park ride – the higher, faster, and scarier, the better. But some people do need to be a little careful about trying out these adrenalin-rush rides. Most theme or adventure parks will warn you about the risks of certain rides and advise against some categories of people riding them. But is there a need to be wary even if you aren’t on the “Not safe for” board? Here is a look at who should steer clear of the thrill rides section of the park.

Not So Good For The Heart

Thrill rides by their very nature are designed to scare the wits out of you or give you an adrenalin rush like no other. For those with weak cardiovascular health or heart problems, such rides pose the risk of serious complications. The abrupt movements and sudden changes in a thrill ride can cause the heart to speed up and trigger irregular heartbeat. This increases the risk of a cardiovascular event for anyone with a heart problem or disease.

One researcher from Germany noted that it was the anxiety and fear associated with a thrill ride that triggered such cardiac events and not the G-force experienced. He found that 44 percent of the test subjects who took a thrill ride experienced sinus arrhythmias. This lasted about five minutes. An instance of atrial fibrillation(self-terminating) and another of arrhythmia midway through the ride were also observed. While some experts say those who have been treated for and recovered fully from a cardiovascular problem may be able to ride safely, if you have a pacemaker or unstable angina it is best to consult a doctor before hopping on that thrill ride.1

Why Pregnant Women Should Avoid Thrill Rides

According to the American Pregnancy Association, the rigorous activity associated with a thrill ride can cause “jarring forces” in the uterus that could in turn cause a placental abruption (premature separation of the placenta from the mother’s uterine wall). It could also potentially cause complications in the pregnancy even without direct injury to the uterus.2

Watch Your Back (And Neck!)

Those with a weak back or spinal problems would be wise to stay away from any ride that involves jerks or sudden movements or those that put pressure on your spine from sudden drops or high impact on water or otherwise. Rollercoasters are common offenders and can toss you around like a rag doll, jerking your body in multiple directions swiftly. They can cause trauma to your ligaments, muscles, bones, and soft tissues or simply bring on neck pain. The unnatural and sudden twists and rotations of the spine can cause disc herniation. If you have a history of spinal problems or cervical vertebral abnormalities, you are especially susceptible. Those with the latter are more prone to experiencing arterial dissection. Arterial dissection could also occur among those with connective tissue disorders, as a result of a thrill ride.3

Thrill rides assume a certain average level of neck strength of riders. If someone is thinner, younger, or very old, they may not have the neck muscle strength to keep their heads steady and upright. Women in particular tend to experience more neck injuries than men, but a man with a weak neck or related pre-existing problems may be just as prone.

Are Thrill Rides A No-No For Children?

Most amusement parks use a simple rule-of-thumb usually related to the height of a child to decide whether or not they can go on a certain ride. But as a parent or guardian, you may need to put some checks and controls of your own in place too. For instance, children who are exceptionally tall for their age might be allowed on a ride intended for older kids. While they meet the height criterion, they may not have the sturdy bone structure and muscle tone of an older child of average height. This would put their body through much more wear and make them susceptible to injury that an older child would not be as much at risk of experiencing. Non-profit organization Safer Parks, committed to improving safer experiences of thrill rides, urges parents to avoid putting kids on rides not designed for their age group. That’s because the bracing points and restraints have been created with a target audience of teenagers or adults in mind in the case of full-size rides. So they won’t get support from the safety features to the extent needed.4

Children are also at risk of posterior circulation stroke as a result of repetitive or minimal trauma. One of the major causes of a child having a stroke is cervicocephalic arterial dissections. These may not be spotted immediately because symptoms may present as neck pain or headaches, which could be mistaken for a simple case of aches and pains linked to the high action ride. If a child has a connective tissue disorder or abnormality of the cervical vertebra, you might want to keep them away from thrill rides.5

Adventurous Seniors May Need To Be Cautious Too

Safer Parks also advises caution for elderly thrill seekers. With rides designed for the average healthy male adult who is in their prime, many may find their bodies not up to the rigor of a thrill ride. For reasons mentioned earlier, including cardiovascular issues, constraints of muscle strength, or connective tissue or spinal problems, as well as lower flexibility and bone strength than younger people, many older thrill seekers may end up with minor to serious side effects from a ride. Depending on your fitness levels, flexibility, and muscle strength, as well as a clean slate on the medical front, you may be able to enjoy some thrill rides without much problem. However, it is best to consult your doctor to be sure.6

References   [ + ]

1.Kuschyk, J., K. Hamm, N. Schoene, C. Echternach, C. Veltmann, N. Yilmaz, T. Zepp, B. Schuessler, C. Wolpert, and M. Borggregfe. “Modern roller coaster rides: A potential cardiovascular risk? First systematic analysis of cardiovascular response to extreme G-forces untrained volunteers.” In CIRCULATION, vol. 112, no. 17, pp. U767-U767. 530 WALNUT ST, PHILADELPHIA, PA 19106-3261 USA: LIPPINCOTT WILLIAMS & WILKINS, 2005.
2.Pregnancy and Amusement Parks. American Pregnancy Association.
3, 5.Lascelles, K., D. Hewes, and V. Ganesan. “An unexpected consequence of a roller coaster ride.” Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 71, no. 5 (2001): 704-705.
4.Watch Children Carefully. Safer Parks.
6.Patron Age and Health. Safer Parks.
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.