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CYCLING INJURIES : Hunter Greene    Mountain biking is surging in popularity among high school students in Northern California, as evidenced by the growing...


   Mountain biking is surging in popularity among high school students in Northern California, as evidenced by the growing number of high school mountain biking teams. It’s an inclusive, fun and challenging sport that appeals to recreational riders and experienced competitors alike. 

   No matter what your skill level, everyone has a chance to develop and improve his or her mountain biking skills and endurance during the season. 

   As with any sport, cycling is not without risk of injury. By following some simple safety principles, you can avoid many common cycling injuries.

   KNEE PAIN — The knee is the most common spot for overuse injuries in cycling. Patellofemoral syndrome, patella and quadriceps tendinitis, and iliotibial band friction syndrome are some of the common overuse injuries of the knee. Shoe inserts, wedges beneath the shoes and proper cleat position may help prevent these injuries of the knee.

   HEAD INJURIES — One of the most common injuries suffered by cyclists is a head injury. Wearing a helmet significantly reduces the risk for head injury. 

   NECK/BACK PAIN —  Cyclists may experience pain in the neck from staying in one riding position for too long. An easy way to avoid this is by doing shoulder shrugs and neck stretches periodically. Improper form also leads to injuries. If the handlebars are too low, cyclists may have to round their backs, putting strain on the neck and back.  Changing the grip on the handlebars takes the stress off of overused muscles and redistributes pressure.

   WRIST/FOREARM PAIN OR STIFFNESS — Cyclists should ride with their elbows slightly bent (never with their arms locked or straight). When they hit bumps in the road or trail, bent elbows act as shock absorbers. Again, changing hand positions will help reduce pain or numbness. Two types of common wrist overuse injuries, cyclist’s palsy and carpel tunnel syndrome, can be prevented by alternating the pressure from the inside to the outside of the palms and making sure wrists do not drop below the handlebars. In addition, padded gloves and stretching the hands and wrists before riding will help.

   FOOT NUMBNESS/TINGLING — Foot numbness and tingling are common complaints, and shoes that are too tight or narrow are often the cause. In addition, foot numbness can be caused by exertional compartment syndrome, an exercise-induced muscle and nerve condition that causes pain and swelling in the lower leg. The condition is usually treated with surgical release.

   Many of the problems described above are discomforts associated with an improper bike fit. With the very repetitive action of pedaling, the first line of defense against overuse injuries is a proper bike fit. If you didn’t get one at the beginning of the season, get one now to ensure you’re in the proper position to help prevent overuse injuries.

   Any injury that is accompanied by bleeding, severe pain, loss of sensation or increased weakness should be seen by a physician. Overuse injuries or mild injuries can be treated by rest and taking pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Swelling and pain can also be treated with alternating ice and heat therapy.

Check out this article in the digital edition of SportStars Magazine… Heavy Pedal By Hunter Greene 

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Hunter Greene, M.D., is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with Summit Orthopedic Specialists in Carmichael.

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