Cycling is now known to be one of the ways to maintain weight and boost one’s overall weight. However, it could go south. Cycling injuries are an unfortunate part of cycling.
Some people are more prone than others, while others find themselves off the bike at some point.
Common cycling injuries can be prevented and treated with home-care. So, if you find yourself experiencing one or more of these injuries, we’ve compiled a list of the best advice around these injuries that can be of help.
Also remember that, if any one of them persists, then you may have to see a physiotherapist or osteopath.
Now, the big question is, how often do cycling injuries occur in the United States?
Every year in the United States, there’s a high record of cycling injuries that occur daily. Some of these injuries has led to abstenance of cycling by a lot of individuals.
In fact, bicycle crashes rank second to riding animals as a sports-or-recreation associated cause of serious injury.
A study shows that the rate of severe injuries to be 37.4 per 100,000 population in urban areas.
According to the American Family Physician, bicycle-related injuries account for approximately 900 deaths, 23,000 hospital admissions, 580,000 emergency department visits, and more than 1.2 million physician visits per year in the United States. This results in an estimated cost of more than $8 billion annually.
The Child Health Supplement to the 1988 National Health Interview Survey estimated that approximately 4.4 million children aged five to 17 years were injured annually because of participation in sports and recreation; bicycle-related injuries were responsible for 10 to 40 percent of these.
More so, up to 51 percent of bicycle riders sustain injuries each year. This calls for a lot of attention for cyclists daily.
How Risky is Cycling?
Cycling can be very risky especially if you do not wear protective equipment like helmet, and gloves.
A study shows that the peak incidence of bicycle-related injuries and fatalities is in the nine- to 15-year age group with a male-to-female ratio of 2 to 3:1.
More so, incidences like crashes involving motor vehicles, and an unsafe riding environment increases the risk of cycling.
Although some studies show that socioeconomic status increase the risk of cycling, there aren’t enough points backing it up.
Regardless, cycling can be fun and very risky if you do not apply safety.
Causes of Cycling Injuries
Cycling injuries happen everyday, and can be attributed to a lot of causes. Some of these causes include;
- Rider errors ( losing control, speed, performing stunts, inexperience)
- Motorist errors
- Environmental hazards (Objects in the road, loose gravel)
- Bicycle mechanical failure
- Distance of trip
- Duration of ride
Although collisions with motor vehicles are relatively uncommon, they are responsible for most serious cycling injuries and fatalities.
Common Cycling Injuries
Some common cycling injuries that occur are;
Crashes are categorised as impact injuries, and they happen when you either crash into a vehicle or something else crashes into you while cycling.
If you’ve crashed heavily, the obvious advice is to seek medical attention. Even if you have no bones broken, you may have likely hit your head on something, leading to concussion.
A concussion can require significant rest and is not to be taken lightly. Another injury that may occur is breaking your clavicle (collarbone). And the good news is that this often takes about six weeks to heal but you can still get on the turbo trainer in the meantime.
#2. Muscle Strains
Muscle strain occurs to bicycle riders who overuse their bicycle, especially those involved in competitive racing.
They are less obvious impact injuries. Strained muscles may cause you to over-compensate, resulting in overuse injuries.
Cyclists who experience muscle strain are often tempted to get back on the bike asap – but sometimes it’s a good idea to take extra rest or even have a check-up with a physio or osteopath before you get back to riding after a crash.
#3. Road rash
Road rash is another least serious but annoying injury caused by a crash. It is the grazing of the skin caused by hitting, and often skidding along, the tarmac.
Although it hurts, its important to carefully clean road rash as soon as you get home (by clean, we mean scrub, it’d hurt a bit though), before using a good antiseptic cream.
Ensure to keep it clean and dry for the next few days for a good recovery.
To prevent these crash injuries, ride within your limits and take safe lines. But sometimes, there’s nothing you can do.
#4. Lower Back Pain
With the hours spent cycling, especially for competitive cyclists, one of the most common cycling injuries that can occur is lower back pain.
The back pain doesn’t just stop there, it often upsets lower back muscles that will lead to changes in posture which can impact other areas.
To be more specific, the piriformis muscle which starts at the lower back and connects to the upper surface of the thighbone. The is because the natural position of being on a bike is a lot of stress on the spine.
Irritation may occur here which can present as hip pain, or pain anywhere lower in the leg as the sciatic nerve which runs from the lower back to your toes can become upset when the piriformis is tight.
If you encounter lower back pain, take some time to rest, stretch your back and hips and try using a foam roller. If the problem persists, see a professional like an osteopath who can calm the symptoms.
To prevent a reoccurance of lower back pain, do the following;
- Position on the bike: if your position is very aggressive with a long stem/top tube and low handlebars, think about raising them to alleviate pressure. Also, set your back straight in the right position for the specific frame of your bicycle.
- Position off the bike: if you work at a desk, think about your posture. Investing in a Mckenzie pillow (round pillow that sits at your lower back and helps maintain good posture) is a good idea and you should also check your set-up isn’t encouraging awkward twisting and that your chair is comfortable
- Core strength: if your core muscles are not strong enough, your lower back will collapse on the bike, causing undue strain. Working on your core strength will also make you a more powerful rider, as your legs will push the pedals from a stronger base – so it wins all round
#5. Achilles Tendonitis
This is another overuse injury that causes inflammation of your legs. So, to prevent this, make sure the kind of bike you’re riding is the right one for you and that your shoes cleats are properly positioned.
If you feel any pain while riding, get off the bike and rest for a few days. If you notice any swelling, put ice on it.
Check your saddle, too. Make sure it’s not too high because it will then keep your toes pointing down which means that there is a continuous contraction of your calf muscles.
#6. Muscle Tightness
While cycling, you may not notice that your calves and hamstrings are probably too tight.
This is because, when you are riding, your body is too smart and has adapted to the constant motion.
To notice this, try doing an exercise that is not cycling, then you’ll feel the pain in your calves.
Tightness can lead to tearing. So, ensure that your muscles are not “tight” or “too much” of anything.
Before you get on the bike, ensure you always warm up, and cool down when you’re done.
Don’t forget to stretch, so that your muscles are flexible. You can choose to use a foam roller for extra help (that’s if you can endure the pain, I usually can’t!)
#7. Knee Pain
The knee cap, called patella is a joint between the upper and lower leg – and it gets out of joint when something’s not moving right, pulling it in the wrong direction.
This situation can result from overuse of a bike, specifically a bike fit problem.
If you find yourself in this condition, try getting some rest, massage, foam rolling, or using ice or anti-inflammatories at first.
There are different types of knee pain that can result from cycling. They Include;
- Pain at the front of the knee called anterior knee pain often comes from a saddle that is too low and thus places undue pressure on the patella.
- Pain behind the knee posterior knee pain commonly arises when a saddle is too high, stretching the hamstring attachments.
- Lateral and medial pains present at the side of the knee and can be caused by incorrect cleat set up causing the knee to track incorrectly.
Another major cause of knee pain is a tight IT band – the fibrous tissue that runs down the outer thigh.
A tight IT band can pull on the patella, causing incorrect tracking, and this can be resolved by using massage and foam rolling.
Kinesio tape can also be used, but it’s a short term correction practice, that only addresses the symptom. A more effective mode of correction is loosening the IT band.
#8. Wrist, arm, hand and neck pain
Other common cycling injuries that can occur is wrist, arm, hand and neck pain.
Pains around the neck and wrists are often caused when too much pressure is being transmitted through the upper body.
Typically, about 60 per cent of your body weight is positioned at the rear of the bike, and 40 per cent at the front. So, if it gets too much through the handlebars, then your arms and wrists will feel the impact.
To prevent this, check that your reach is not too long and that your handlebars are not too low.
Furthermore, neck pain can arise if the bars are too low, as the rider is forced to hyperextend to look up in order to see what’s ahead.
Wrist pain can occur when your handlebar position is wrong, forcing an unnatural angle. You can adjust the position of your handlebars and hoods by loosening the stem bolts.
Rotating the bars upwards will have the effect of slightly reducing the reach.
#9. Ulnar Neuropathy
Ulnar neuropathy is the numbness and tingling in the ring and little fingers or of the thumb.
More so, when the median nerve is compressed, it causes tingling in the thumb, index, middle and ring finger which is called carpal tunnel syndrome.
This can further cause paraesthesia in the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers and the radial side of the hand, as well as weakness on abduction and opposition of the thumb.
To prevent this, change your hand position frequently on the handlebars, increase handlebar padding and wear padded gloves.
#10. Saddle Sores
This cycling injury is skin disorder that can develop over time after many hours in the saddle.
Saddle sores vary but any sore in the raised area of skin around the buttocks or undercarriage and caused by contact with the saddle would sit in the category.
Once a saddle sore has arrived, the best thing to do is to keep the area clean (washing with an un-perfumed soap) and dry.
If sitting on the saddle hurts, taking a few days off the bike until the angry skin has calmed down is a good idea.
The major prevention of saddle sores depends on the saddle and the cycling shorts. You need to find a saddle that best suits you.
#11. Hot Foot
Foot pain is common in cyclists and this shouldn’t be a surprise. The watts put into every pedal stroke travel through our twinkle toes, and we insist upon funneling our feet into stiff-soled shoes.
Hot foot is a burning sensation, numbness or pain on the underside of the foot.
It arises as a result of pressure on the nerves that travel through the ball of the foot and towards the toes. To tackle it, you have to soften or redistribute that pressure.
So, if you experience a hot foot in summer, the right solution should be to loosen your feets if possible, or look for shoes that give your feet allowance.
If it arises in winter, it means you may be wearing socks that are too thick to allow for enough blood supply.
#12. Cleat Placement
Cleat placement pain is a cycling injury that occurs when pressure is not properly spread across the ball of your foot.
Although some cleats have larger platform that allows for wider pressure spread, others do not.
So, enough the cleats are properly placed, and your feet are well balanced.
#13. Foot Numbness
Feet numbness occurs when you can’t feel your feet anymore. If this is your situation, then there’s no need to panic.
It’s a common cycling injury that occurs when your shoes are improperly fit. So, make sure your shoes are not squeezing your feet too tight and they are not too narrow.
#14. Muscle Fatigue
Muscle fatigue occurs because cyclists use muscles to ride the bike. So, give your quads a break from time to time to enable them recover.
If you don’t, your muscles can get too tired, resulting to build up of lactic acids, causing them to hurt.
So, if you experience this, try to get some massage. Or you can use a kinesiology tape before you ride.
Also, switch pedaling in and out from the saddle in order to let some muscles relax while you put pressure on others.
#15. Buttock Tenderness
Rounding up my list of common cycling injuries that occur during cycling is buttock tenderness.
Sustained pressure over the ischial tuberosities is a frequent cause of buttock tenderness, especially in new riders.
To prevent this, pay attention to the position and type of saddle being used. Also ensure your seat is at the correct height and angle.
Cycling is a common form of exercise, however carelessness or ignorance, may lead to the occurence of some common cycling injuries.
I hope this post helps you prevent these injuries.
All the best!