Mountain biking is an amazing sport and Utah is truly a world renown mecca for the sport. Mountain biking is a great way to get out into the mountains, improve fitness, enhance a feeling of well-being, and build confidence. However, mountain biking is not without risk. It's an activity that requires specialized equipment and sometimes takes place on difficult terrain. While most crashes result in relatively mild contusions and abrasions (bruises and scrapes), many crashes result in more serious injuries such as fractures, dislocations and concussions. For these reasons, it makes sense to keep a few safety tips in mind when you head out onto the trail.
Mountain Biking Injury Prevention Tips
A sports medicine research team at the University of Utah Orthopaedic Center, led by Professor Stuart Willick, MD, has been prospectively collecting data on hundreds of injuries seen in tens of thousands of mountain bikers. Dr. Willick's research team has identified various factors associated with the occurrence of injuries. Keeping these risk factors in mind can help you stay on your bike and decrease your risk of injury.
First, more injuries occur while riding on downhill sections of trail compared with riding on flat and uphill sections of trail, so be particularly careful on downhill sections. Excessive speed is often associated with crashes. Many of the most serious injuries happen when a rider goes over the handle bars and lands on their head - something definitely to be avoided. However, you still can't let your guard down while riding on flat and uphill trails because injuries still happen on these sections.
Second, a lot of crashes occur on turns, particularly downhill turns and turns with loose soil or loose rocks. Make sure you learn proper riding technique and make sure you have good tires that are properly inflated in order to decrease the chance of "washing out" on curves.
Third, some crashes happen because a rider loses focus on the trail, sometimes even for just a split second. Focusing on all of the trail features that are coming up is critically important. Do your best not to get distracted and not to look away from the trail in front of you.
On the topic of focus, riding on a trail that you are familiar with does not protect you from injury. In fact, most crashes occur on trails that the rider has ridden before, if only because riders tend to ride the same trails a lot. Riding a trail that you have been on dozens of times before is not an excuse to lose focus on what is ahead of you.
While few crashes are associated with a mechanical failure with the bike, it is still a good idea to keep your bike tuned up to prevent mechanical issues in the backcountry. A good helmet is a must, and good riding gloves can protect against bad scrapes during falls onto your outstretched hands.
Finally, Dr. Willick says, "The most important thing that prevents injury is being careful and riding within your limits. A lot of injuries occur when there is a mismatch between the technical nature of the trail and the ability level (or self-perceived ability level) of the rider." Life is more fun if you are able to continue doing the great activities that you love to do, so it's better to ride safely and keep riding, then it is to take too many chances, get hurt, and have to take time off from riding.
Mountain biking is incredibly fun and challenging, but does carry some risk of injury. The best way to mitigate the risks that come with mountain biking is simply to err on the side of safety. In the event you do get injured, it always helps if you are riding with a friend who can help you if needed.
Located in Salt Lake City in Research Park, the University Orthopaedic Center has orthopedic specialists who treat a wide variety of problems in your bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons.
From concussions to back pain to spine surgery, our specialists provide the best care to help you heal and get back to the physical activities you love.
To request an appointment visit https://healthcare.utah.edu/orthopaedics/appointment.php or call 801-903-2306