Olympian Speed Skater Debbie Palmer Discusses Mountain Biking Injuries

Former three-time winter Olympian Debbie Palmer is what you might call an authority on injuries in high-profile sports. She has experience inside the International Olympic Committee, the Enduro World Series, and even headed an EWS paper on injury patterns recently published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine. She recently sat down with Pink Bike to discuss mountain biking injuries. 

According to Palmer, the study began because the researchers involved wanted to ensure that athletes would be taken care of when injured — and that meant knowing what types of injuries occurred most often and how to prevent them. 

A few of the key takeaways from the published report might be surprising: namely that the rate of concussion among mountain bikers is on the lower side. Palmer did acknowledge that bikers lacked the specific knowledge related to treatment of concussive injuries and wishes to help them learn how to address them out in the field when help could be miles and miles away.

She said, “For example, a large proportion of riders who displayed red flags for concussion, and were later diagnosed with concussion, continued to race. When we looked at how long riders took off after the race, there were quite a few riders who potentially didn’t take the time off that is needed post-concussion.”

What kind of injuries were most problematic for mountain bikers? Turns out that shoulder injuries are most common. Palmer explained, “We know in elite sport that you can’t prevent all injuries, there are going to be some that are just unavoidable, but can we reduce the risk of some occurring, improve the way that they’re dealt with, or can we reduce the severity, so how long they last?”

Palmer believes that bikers should deny the urge to get ride back out there after sustaining any type of injury. If there’s one thing she wants mountain bikers to take away from the study, it’s that rest is very important. Otherwise, injuries often get exacerbated quickly.