Special Guest Contributor – Dr. Andy, ConnectedHealth:

Not only is it Kennywood time, but it’s also kidney stone season. The reason for this is because during the summer, we tend to allow ourselves to dehydrate a bit. This sets the stage for the formation of calcium oxalate stones, the most common type of kidney stone.

But that pain that you experienced after getting off the Phantom’s Revenge may not be what you think it is. Dr. David Wartinger, professor emeritus of urology at Michigan State University of Osteopathic Medicine and co-author of study on the link between roller coasters and kidney stones, found that riding a roller coaster may be an effective way to pass small stones.

The authors published a study in September 2016 in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association noting that several of their patients had reported passing kidney stones after riding on Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster at Disney World in Florida. In one instance, a man told the investigators that after 3 consecutive rides of a roller coaster he passed a stone. The investigators began to hear this phenomenon over and over again. To test their hypothesis, they developed and engineered a kidney and manufactured stones of 3 different sizes: Small (4.5 mm³), medium (13.5 mm³), and large (64.6 mm³). They placed these stones in manufactured model kidneys at 3 different locations in the kidneys: In the top most pole of the kidney, middle of the kidney, and bottom of the kidney. Then riders took the kidneys on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster in backpacks.

They noted that the one thing that they couldn’t control for was seat assignment on the roller coaster as this was determined as a function of the place they assumed in line. Seat assignment, however, turned out to be important. When the investigator was seated in the rear of the car, regardless of the size or location of the stone, they passed the stone 64% of the time. When the researcher was seated in the first car, they passed the stone only 17% of the time.

I don’t claim to be an aficionado of the roller coasters at Kennywood, and I can’t tell you whether you should try this on the Thunderbolt, the Phantom’s Revenge, the Racer, or the Jackrabbit. What I can tell you is that you stand the best chance of passing a small stone by being in the last car and being well hydrated. I can also tell you that 24 hours after my last trip to Kennywood, I suffered right flank pain consistent with passing a kidney stone. Coincidence?


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