Mountain biking is a sport for thick-skinned thrill seekers who love the adrenaline rush. It’s not for those who can’t handle a fall — since there will be many — or the threat of injury. This is especially true for those who are just starting, since they’re the ones who are most likely to fall and hurt themselves. The proper balance only comes after years of training. Once you’ve ridden thousands of miles, then you’re less likely to be seriously injured.
So what are the most common mountain biking injuries?
Many doctors say they have bikers who come in with symptoms like numbness from overextending the hands while biking. There’s not much they can do except tell patients to take it easy for a while and practice good posture while biking to reduce the chance of future symptoms — or even nerve damage. This is also why carpal tunnel syndrome is another common complaint. Reducing the weight you place on your wrist can reduce the chance for chronic carpal tunnel to develop.
Most bikers will experience knee or lower back pain at some point in their career. These are simple overuse injuries and usually require rest to heal properly. If injuries like sciatica or Ilio Tibial Band Friction Syndrome (ITBFS) occur, then you’ll want to speak with your outfitter about a bike that fits your frame better. Speak with your doctor about pain-reduction strategies.
Many bikers will experience a broken bone. Of these, the collar bone and wrist break the most often. That’s because bikers will reflexively try to break their fall with a single outstretched hand. The impact will fracture bones in the wrist or arm, but the shock will also crunch the weight of your torso and your arm together — which means your clavicle is taking the brunt of the force, and will often break.
Less common are neck and back injuries, but these are always a risk even with precautions. They also have the most severe consequences, not only for continued quality of life, but also for the bank account. A single spine treatment can be extremely expensive, depending on what you need done. Herniated discs and chipped or broken vertebrae are the severe injuries that doctors and emergency room surgeons see most often. For these, expect many months of physical therapy and additional surgeries down the line.
How can you prevent these common mountain biking injuries? The first is the most obvious: pad up and be sure to wear a helmet. These don’t completely eliminate the possibility of injuries, but they greatly reduce the chances. Less serious injuries arise because of posture. Others arise because the bike doesn’t adequately reduce the shock of impact. You could even hurt your lower regions if your seat isn’t up to snuff. It’s important to reduce the opportunity for common injuries by investing in a good bike — and making sure that the bike is right for you. That means finding an outfitter to size you up!