If you wonder how safe it is to ride a roller coaster, you should probably worry less about the hardware and more about the software in your body.
Most accidents, injuries and fatalities are not from mechanical failure, but medical conditions.
The Formula Rossa roller coaster in Abu Dhabi reaches top speeds of 149 mph in five seconds. That’s the fastest coaster in the world.
You should literally not ride it — or any other roller coaster, for that matter — if you have heart disease.
In fact, a scientific study of roller coaster fatalities in the U.S. found that most of the deaths were from medical conditions either caused or exacerbated by riding a coaster.
Of the 29 patrons who died during the 10-year period ending in May 2004, 18 died from medical conditions and 15 of those were cardiac problems or intracranial hemorrhages. Just 11 were from external causes such as falls or collisions.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Neurotrauma found that coasters did not present an immediate risk of acute brain injury (although they didn’t do the test on subjects riding the Formula Rossa). In fact, researchers found that brain strain during roller coaster rides was similar to running and lower than soccer head hits.
If you have a bad back, you might skip the coaster, another study suggests. Neck and back injuries are not unknown, but it depends on the person, according to a study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
That study looked at roller coaster injuries during a 19-month period in 1992. There were a total of 656 neck and back injuries among the 932,000 riders of the coaster studied. Of those injuries, 72 percent had a cervical disk injury.