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How to Avoid Mountain Biking Injuries

Sports medicine experts discuss prevention techniques


How to Avoid Mountain Biking Injuries

Prevent common injuries to keep yourself away from crutches.

©MrGrigg via Flickr

Sure, mountain biking is fun, but it’s not without a little pain every now and then. About.com caught up with Dr. Michael Shepard, board-certified orthopaedic surgeon with a subspecialty in sports medicine from Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine, CA, and Dr. Tim Brown, sports chiropractic physician, medical director for the Association of Surfing Professionals and founder of IntelliSkin. The experts in sports medicine addressed the most common cycling aches, pains and injuries.

About.com: Why is it important for beginners of the sport to pace themselves and/or gradually increase their activity level?
Dr. Brown: Fatigue is often a factor in traumatic injuries, so combining fatigue with lower skill levels increases chances of injury that much more. Keep it fun and give your body time to adjust and adapt to the new demands you are placing on it.

Dr. Shepard: The biggest risk for mountain bike riders is the traumatic injuries which can result in irreversible damage. These traumatic injuries occur as a rider gains too much momentum / speed and crashes. Being able to control the bike and control the downhill speed is essential to avoiding these potentially devastating injuries.

About.com: What are some common overuse injuries in cycling (if not already mentioned)? How can cyclists avoid overuse injuries?
Dr. Brown: Train to cycle, not the other way around. Work on improving your posture and core mobility, stability and strength by opening up and becoming more flexible in the muscles that are in front and on the outside of your body. Also focus your strength training on your back side, from heels to neck. This is called the posterior chain...know it! A great reminder to keep your posture correct is wearing IntelliSkin apparel, which is derived from the hybrid kinesio taping method I helped create back in the 1980s. Particularly while sitting for hours on the bike, maintaining healthy posture is very important to avoiding back and neck injuries. Correct posture also improves your ease of breathing, resulting in more oxygen available to your muscles for greater endurance and faster recovery!

Dr. Shepard: Overuse injuries can be decreased by proper training and properly fitted equipment. The body is always undergoing a process of breaking down and healing. In overuse injuries, the activity of breaking down is not adequately compensated with periods of healing. Relative rest is needed to allow the healing to "catch up." Cross training and core conditioning can help distribute the forces generated in mountain biking and thereby decrease overuse injuries.

About.com: How can proper bike fit prevent pain and injury?
Dr. Brown: It's as important as wearing the right size shoe. The proper bike fit is for comfort, function and safety...it's a must do.

Dr. Shepard: Properly-fitted equipment allows the body's joints to move with more degrees of freedom (less constraints) and thereby helps prevent against the concentrated forces that leads to overuse injuries. For example, properly fitted clips will allow some movement at the foot and ankle joints and help prevent against increased ankle / foot forces.

About.com: In general, if a cyclist experiences an ache or pain, should they ride through it? What steps do you recommend they take?
Dr. Brown: If you are altering your technique to ride through an injury, stop. If the pain stays the same or gets worse even when off the bike, see a licensed sports health care professional, preferably someone who also rides. They will know what and how you feel, not from reading a book, but by combing their education with living it!

Dr. Shepard: If a pain or injury occurs, then apply basic first aid RICE techniques (REST, ICE, COMPRESSION, ELEVATION). After 48 hours, attempt a light workout. If pain resumes then seek medical attention.

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