Roller coaster rides trigger pediatric stroke

December 11, 2014, Loyola University Health System

Riding a couple roller coasters at an amusement park appears to have triggered an unusual stroke in a 4-year-old boy, according to a report in the journal Pediatric Neurology.

The sudden acceleration, deceleration and rotational forces on the head and neck likely caused a tear in the boy's . This tear, called a dissection, led to formation of a blood clot that triggered the stroke, Loyola University Medical Center neurologist Jose Biller, MD and colleagues report.

Strokes previously have been reported in adult riders, but there are only a few previous reports of strokes in children who rode roller coasters, including a 13-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy. The 4-year-old boy described by Loyola neurologists is one of the youngest reported in the medical literature.

Prior to his stroke, the 4-year-old boy was healthy. During an out-of-state vacation with his parents, he rode two roller coasters. The first ride was 679 feet long and 30 feet high, with a top speed of 25 mph. The second ride had a 53-foot drop with a descent speed of 40 mph.

The day after riding the roller coasters, the boy vomited and developed a droop on the left side of his face while on the flight back home. By the time he arrived home, he was unable to walk and had weakness on his left side. He was rushed to the hospital, where imaging exams showed he had experienced a carotid artery dissection and stroke. He received low-dose aspirin and doctors observed a steady improvement. At a six-month follow-up visit, his gait had improved considerably, and he had only mild muscle weakness and stiffness on the left side.

Sudden movements that can hyperextend the neck or rotate the neck - such as whiplash, certain sports movements or even violent coughing - can result in a dissection of the carotid artery. A dissection begins as a tear in one layer of the artery wall. A blood clot can form in the area of the tear. If it's large enough, the clot can block blood flow to the brain. Or, pieces of the clot can break free, travel up to the brain and block blood flow to the brain. In either case, the result is a stroke.

A child under age 10 is vulnerable to sudden neck movements and rotations due to weak neck muscles, a relatively large head and other factors. "This hypermobility, combined with other kinetic and linear forces experienced during a roller coaster ride, could theoretically explain why some children, albeit rarely, sustain dissections," Dr. Biller and colleagues wrote.

Dr. Biller is an internationally known expert on strokes in children and young adults. He has written a textbook on the topic and is a co-author of the American Heart Association's guidelines for management of stroke in infants and children. Dr. Biller notes that about 15 percent of the most common type of strokes (caused by ) occur in adolescents and young adults.

Explore further: Neck manipulation may be associated with stroke

More information: The paper in Pediatric Neurology is titled "Internal carotid artery dissection after a roller-coaster ride in a 4-year-old. Case Report and Review of the Literature."

Related Stories

Neck manipulation may be associated with stroke

August 7, 2014
Treatments involving neck manipulation may be associated with stroke, though it cannot be said with certainty that neck manipulation causes strokes, according to a new scientific statement published in the American Heart ...

Video: Physician warns that with a stroke, 'time equals brain'

August 4, 2014
Dr. José Biller, chair of Neurology and a stroke specialist, explains that both his parents died of vascular diseases, his father of a heart attack and his mother of a brain hemorrhage. He thinks this influenced his decision ...

Young people at higher risk for stroke

September 3, 2013
Fifteen percent of the most common type of strokes occur in adolescents and young adults, and more young people are showing risk factors for such strokes, according to a report in the journal Neurology.

Vascular disease affecting women 'poorly understood' by many health care providers

February 25, 2014
A vascular disease called fibromuscular dysplasia, which can cause high blood pressure, kidney failure, stroke and other symptoms—mostly in women—is "poorly understood by many healthcare providers," according to a Scientific ...

Head, neck injuries may increase stroke risk among trauma patients younger than 50

February 13, 2014
Suffering an injury to the head or neck increases ischemic stroke risk three-fold among trauma patients younger than 50, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference ...

New research discovers gene that reduces risk of stroke

November 24, 2014
Scientists have discovered a gene that protects people against one of the major causes of stroke in young and middle-aged adults and could hold the key to new treatments.

Recommended for you

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

NeuroNext biomarker study explores natural history of infantile-onset SMA

January 9, 2018
Research led by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to define the natural history of infantile-onset spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) has been "critical" to accelerate the development of effective therapies and hasten ...

No link between childhood lead levels, later criminality

December 27, 2017
(HealthDay)— Exposure to higher levels of lead during early childhood can affect neurological development—but does that mean affected kids are doomed to delinquency?

Early puberty in girls may take mental health toll

December 26, 2017
(HealthDay)—A girl who gets her first menstrual period early in life—possibly as young as 7—has a greater risk for developing depression and antisocial behaviors that last at least into her 20s, a new study suggests.

Technology not taking over children's lives despite screen-time increase

December 21, 2017
With children spending increasing amounts of time on screen-based devices, there is a common perception that technology is taking over their lives, to the detriment and exclusion of other activities. However, new Oxford University ...

Higher blood sugar in early pregnancy raises baby's heart-defect risk

December 15, 2017
Higher blood sugar early in pregnancy raises the baby's risk of a congenital heart defect, even among mothers who do not have diabetes, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

azkafrazle
1 / 5 (1) Dec 11, 2014
Ban all roller coaster rides and any other activities that have a risk of injury to anyone, be they children or adults. Couch potatoes of the world unite.
slomomojo
not rated yet Dec 12, 2014
Isn't age 4 a bit young to be riding roller coasters? A bit of parental common sense would have prevented this tragedy.
aegiscoo
5 / 5 (1) Dec 12, 2014
Slomomojo, it takes me back to last year during a family holiday in Branson. My insolent son-in-law insisted on our two grandsons riding two roller-coasters (one was 7 and the other 5 1/2). They were fearful but this little sob had terrorized and abused everybody in the family (not to mention he was a moocher - estranged from his mom and dad, felt he was entitled to everything, attacked everybody, and got away with it for a long time). I finally got him out of our house and two cars back (had been living in HK and had just returned). Long story short, perhaps this little boy was doing something he was forced to do and had no choice. When our son-in-law threatened to kill the entire family I told him to go ahead, get his gun, but to remember I had one, too, and if I ever saw him abusing my daughter, grandchildren, or wife, I would gut-shoot him. So sad for this little boy because he probably had no choice.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.