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Are Roller Coasters Safe for People With MS?

Posted on March 14, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D.
Article written by
Sarah Winfrey

There’s very little research available regarding roller coasters and multiple sclerosis (MS). However, roller coasters do cause effects that may make MS symptoms worse.

Several MyMSTeam members want to know if roller coasters are safe for people who have been diagnosed with MS.

Here’s what you need to know before you decide whether to ride a roller coaster on your next visit to an amusement park. You can also talk to your doctor if you are unsure about the safety of riding a roller coaster.

Roller Coasters and Dizziness or Vertigo

Dizziness and vertigo are two common symptoms of MS. People diagnosed with MS often feel lightheaded and may feel like they are going to faint. Some feel like their surroundings are spinning around them. These symptoms are caused by lesions in the areas of the brain that deal with spatial awareness or that coordinate visual information.

Dizziness and vertigo are also commonly experienced at theme parks. The Los Angeles Times conducted a study of common complaints after riding amusement park rides and found that a significant number of people experienced motion sickness. The symptoms included feeling nauseated, dizzy, and even fainting. Dizziness and vertigo are so common that one researcher, when describing vertigo, says that it’s like being on an amusement park ride.

Because these symptoms overlap with those already experienced by some people with MS, amusement park rides may be discouraged. Although riding roller coasters might not necessarily be unsafe, most people diagnosed with MS don’t want exposure to more dizziness and vertigo.

Several MyMSTeam members avoid amusement park rides for this reason. As one wrote, “I cannot go on ANY rides anymore — I get severe vertigo!” Another shared, “I cannot do ANY rides! I had vertigo and was hospitalized for 10 days! Once, when my kid was little, I forgot and rode the merry-go-round, OMG.”

One member, however, noted that this sensation was temporary: “I used to be the rollercoaster queen, but after a simple kids’ ride, I was unable to get it together. I was very dizzy for about 10 minutes after getting off the ride. When we got home about an hour later, I still felt a bit off-balance, but once I sat still for a while, things improved.”

Yet another member found that these sensations came on later, ultimately mimicking the dizziness they experience from MS. “I took the family out to a theme park and got on a roller coaster for the first time since being diagnosed last year. The ride was great! I felt the normal effects of riding a coaster, just multiplied by five … Nothing out of control. Just more sensitive to it … But when I got home and was ready for bed, I felt like I was having a total relapse!”

Among people with MS, the consensus seems to be that people with the condition can still go on rides like roller coasters as long as they don’t trigger symptoms. As one member wrote, “If your vertigo doesn't kick in, I say, ‘Go for it.’”

Roller Coasters and Seizures

Some people worry that roller coaster rides and other thrill rides may trigger seizures in people with MS. Seizures are one uncommon symptom of MS, occurring in between 2 percent and 5 percent of those with the diagnosis.

There are also some reports of roller coasters causing seizures in those without MS. People with MS may wonder if these rides will cause a seizure because they may already be more susceptible.

However, most seizures that happen on amusement park rides occur because of a certain type of brain injury known as a subdural hematoma. If a rider’s head gets jostled in the wrong way on the rides, they may suffer a seizure as a result. This type of injury is not more likely to occur in a person with MS, so the risk does not mean that riding roller coasters is unsafe for people with the condition.

Even people with epilepsy, which is characterized by seizures, can usually go on roller coasters. If you are concerned that roller coasters may trigger a seizure (especially if you have had one in the past), talk to your neurologist.

Talk To Your Doctor

If you have MS, the safest bet is to talk to your doctor or neurologist if you have questions about riding roller coasters or other amusement park rides. They can alert you to any concerns specific to your health and the way MS affects you.

Your doctor may also be able to help you mitigate some of the effects of these rides. For example, they may prescribe anti-nausea medications to help counteract potential discomfort from intense rides or coasters. If these medications successfully counteract vertigo, then you may be able to ride roller coasters without suffering any ill effects afterward.

Talk to your health care team whenever you have questions about safety and MS. Your team will be able to give you the most comprehensive answers available and will take into account the specifics of your health when they respond.

Find Your Team

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with MS, it can help to have the support of others who understand. On MyMSTeam, you can ask questions, join ongoing conversations, and share your journey with more than 182,000 members who understand life with MS.

Have you ridden roller coasters with MS? Share your experience or tips in the comments below or by posting on MyMSTeam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D. is a neurology and pediatric specialist and treats disorders of the brain in children. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Sarah Winfrey is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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