Patron Age and Health
Thrill rides can exacerbate certain medical conditions
Warning signs at most amusement parks caution patrons with heart conditions, pregnancy, and back/neck injuries against riding. Those warnings are very important and should be taken seriously, but the discrete list of prohibitions may not cover all potentially troublesome interactions.
Warning signs often end with a catch-all clause instructing patrons not to ride if they have any physical condition that might increase the risk of injury on the ride. The lack of common knowledge about the physiological effects of different types of thrill rides can make it very difficult for patrons to comply with the catch-all clause. The best advice is to discuss potential problems with your doctor before going on rides if you have a medical problem or have had recent surgery. If you're concerned or confused, always err on the side of caution.
Aging bodies are more susceptible to injury or illness from ride-related motion
Older riders may be at higher risk of injury on some types of rides due to normal effects of aging such as hardening of the arteries, arthritis, deterioration of discs and vertebrae, etc. Use your best judgment when choosing amusement ride experiences and err on the side of caution. Extreme thrill rides and intense water slides are not designed with senior citizens in mind. If you're moving past life's halfway point and you choose to ride on the wild side, make sure your medical insurance premiums are paid up.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), neck sprain is the most common type of ride-related injury treated in hospital emergency rooms. As thrill rides whip the human body around, the weight of the head exerts strong forces on the neck. Risk factors for neck injury include:
- Previous injuries or pre-existing medical conditions affecting the neck.
- Strength of rider's neck. Full-sized rides are designed for a median adult male weighing 170 pounds. Younger, older, and more slender riders do not have as much muscle strength in their necks to hold their heads upright. CPSC data from hospital emergency rooms indicates that women are twice as likely as men to suffer ride-related neck injuries.
- Flexibility of rider's neck. Older riders and people who suffer from conditions affecting flexibility and bone strength, such as arthritis should avoid high-g rides that tend to whip the rider's head around.
Older people and those with limited mobility should be extra cautious during load/unload
Amusement rides load and unload quickly, and riders may have to navigate dark hallways, steps from moving walkways or into moving vehicles, and uneven or unstable surfaces. This creates a special challenge for older riders and those with limited mobility.
- The rush to board can lead to accidents getting onto the ride, and dizziness from the ride's motion can lead to accidents getting off the ride. A little extra attention is all it takes to prevent these incidents.
- There are few standards for the load/unload portion of the amusement ride experience. That gives designers freedom to innovate new experiences, but it also means patrons should expect the unexpected. Be on the look-out for features such as open space between the platform and ride, non-uniform steps, and machinery movement that can trip you up.
- Watch the loading process before riding. There is often pressure to hurry through boarding, but don't try to move at a faster pace than is safe for you in that situation. Ask the attendant for extra help if you need it. Waiting a few extra seconds before launching the ride won't ruin anyone's day, but an accident certainly will.
- Take extra care when getting into and out of log flumes and other boat rides because the vehicles can move unexpectedly and throw you off-balance. Watch for slippery surfaces in the queue and when boarding water slides and boat rides.
- Some rides are designed to move continuously during the load process, creating more of a challenge as you step into the vehicle and adding additional risk to load/unload accidents. If you fall near moving equipment, you may be struck by the ride or catch something in the machinery.