Each year, millions of athletes go to amusement parks to spend time with friends, ride crazy rides and walk around for hours. Roller coaster rides can be extremely thrilling and fascinating, but they can also cause severe neck and back pain, trauma to the bones, ligaments, muscles and the other soft tissues. Roller coasters and other similar rides in the amusement park throw the body with a great force in different directions. This force can be quite hard on the lower back and neck of the human body. In some cases, neck pain treatment can almost become a must!
“Roller coasters and other rides that forcefully throw your body in different directions can be hard on your lower back and neck,” says osteopathic medical specialist Fredrick Wilson, DO of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Spine Health. “That is why the amusement parks warn people with known back problems to avoid these rides.” (Clevelandclinic.org.)
Amusement parks generally make it a point to inform people who have known neck and back problems to avoid roller coasters, but it is the duty of each person to observe precautions while riding rides and consider the potential symptoms of injuries after the ride.
Athletes will be more likely to experience injuries to the neck, shoulder, or lower back after a long grueling day of riding roller coasters. Athletes with tense and sore muscles are likely to suffer injury even with milder rides. Strong, forceful and sudden movements in multiple directions can trigger muscle spasms. A forward bend causes a natural forward flexion of the human spine and is accompanied with rotations and twisting from the sudden turns of the ride. These movements can lead to severe pain, mostly in people with a history of disc issues and problems. This pain is caused by the increased and constant pressure on the back side of the disc at a point where the spinal canal is located.
Another problem, that often goes undetected, is lower back stress fractures of the vertebra. This is also known as a PARS Stress Fracture. A PARS stress fracture is the most common cause of lower back pain in adolescent athletes. It predominantly causes pain on one side of the back versus the center of the back. It is caused by overuse in activities and athletics. The symptoms usually start as mild pain which gradually worsens with running, jumping, and kicking activities. Spinal movements which commonly cause pain are arching backwards, twisting at the waist, or straightening up from a bent forward position. Pain is typically worse with sports and improves with rest. Athletes will often rest for a few days or weeks and feel better, but the pain returns when they resume sports.
HOW DO YOU PREVENT GETTING A PARS STRESS FRACTURE?
- Maintain good physical conditioning during the off-season and ease into new sports seasons gradually.
- Try not to lift too much weight on your back or shoulders.
- Consult a professional trainer and doctor before lifting weights. Coaches aren’t the best source.
- Increase hours of sports participation gradually.
- Increasing high impact activities (running/jumping), activities requiring rotation and arching of the back gradually.
- Take at least one day off from sports each week and several weeks off every several months.
- Avoid year-round participation or participating on more than one team in the same sport at the same time.
- Maintain good hip flexibility (hamstrings/hip flexors) and good strength in the abdominal, lumbar spine, and core muscles.
If you’re a roller coaster enthusiast, and cannot go without, please try and find a modern steel roller coaster to ride. Those are typically smoother and less violent on the back and neck.