The Effects on the Body of Riding Roller Coasters


Roller coasters --- white-knuckle, high-speed rides --- are found at theme parks and other tourist attractions all over the world. A ride on a roller coaster is a high-velocity trip to dizzying heights, and while for many this means fun, the experience of a roller coaster places the human body in an unusual situation, and can have both physical and psychological effects.

Ear Damage

  • The impact of huge accelerations can, in some rare cases, take a toll on the human ear. The change in air pressure that arises when traveling on a roller coaster --- or alternatively when scuba diving, for example --- can cause ear barotrauma, resulting in pain in one or both ears, due to a swelling of the ear canal. As reported on the Medicine Net website, a man in Detroit was found to have suffered ear barotrauma after a trip on a 120 mile-per-hour roller coaster. The sheer pressure exerted on the man's ear was sufficient to inflame the eardrum, but luckily not puncture it.

On the Heart

  • Riding a roller coaster can set in motion a speeding up of the heart. German researchers, reporting at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2005, declared that heart-rate increase occurred in many individuals riding roller coasters. Researchers believe this increased heart-rate is a result of psychological stress, triggered by fear of the roller-coaster, as well as the G-forces acting on riders. For most people, especially the young, an increased heart-rate is not a problem. However, an increased heart rate can lead to an irregular heartbeat. This can be dangerous for those who, knowingly or not, have cardiovascular issues and an increased chance of suffering a heart attack if they ride a roller coaster.

Whiplash Injuries

  • Roller coaster rides are full of quick, sudden movements, and these can result in spinal traumas, known as whiplash injuries, for some individuals.Typically, the effects of whiplash don't show until a day or two after the individual leaves the ride, and consist of pain in the neck or back, as well as reduced mobility of the arms.


  • The very idea of a roller coaster --- something very fast at great height, and thus potentially frightening --- provokes in many individuals a fight-or-flight scenario, where the person decides whether to continue and board the ride or avoid it. Even before the ride, this psychological reaction has a physical side-effect, causing people to sweat more than usual, as described by the Daily Mail newspaper website. Sweat pores continue to work more than usual during fast and scary roller coasters.


  • Photo Credit Thomas Northcut/Lifesize/Getty Images
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