Medically Reviewed by Rodney K. Alan, MD
Exercise. Fun. Energy-efficient transportation. Bicycles and cycling have expanded from a mostly childhood activity to one where adults are as common on bikes as youngsters. Many communities have created special bike trails to accommodate increasing two-wheel traffic, as well as offer a safer environment than riding in the street.
Yet, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports more than 1.3 million cycling injuries annually. Here are some of the most common injuries with tips on how you might prevent or reduce them.
- Head Injuries. Bike helmets won’t win any fashion awards but they cut your chances of serious head and brain injury by 85%.
- Broken Collar Bones and Wrists. When falling forward, to the side or over the handlebars you naturally want to put your hands out to break your fall. Be alert. Watch the other cyclists or traffic. Drivers often have difficulty seeing a cyclist. You have to be doubly defensive when riding in auto traffic.
- Tendonitis. A poor bike fit for someone riding long distances can strain your foot’s Achilles tendon. Although far less serious than a torn Achilles, the strained tendon can be painful. A seat that is too low or riding too long using “easy” gears can strain the patellar tendon, just below the knee cap. These situations cause your leg muscles to overwork and become prematurely fatigued.
- Bee Stings. Unexpected interaction (by both the bee and you) represents a common injury. An Emergency Medical Technician, who specializes in cycling injuries recommends
~ Make sure your jersey is zipped up all the way when riding downhill and
~Keep your mouth closed to prevent a bee from unintentionally joining you for the ride.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- DON’T wear loose clothing or flip-flops when riding. This clothing can get caught and cause you to crash. Unprotected feet can suffer serious road rash, sprains or broken bones.
- DO wear padded gloves to prevent blisters from forming and protect your hands in case of a crash.
- DO set up your bike correctly. When sitting on the bike and the pedals are in the lowest position, your leg should be almost fully extended. You should be able to stand over the bike (one leg on each side, feet flat) with about 1-2 inches between you and the bike. This will save considerable pain, if you have to jump off the bike without warning.
- DO ride with the traffic – on the right side of the road. Keep an eye out for cars coming up behind you or turning in front of you.
- DO call 911 if a cyclist has a head injury. Don’t move them. EMTs are trained to handle head injuries.
- DO go to the Emergency Department for a serious injury, such as fractures.
- DO see an Orthopedic Specialist if you think you have a sprain, tendonitis or continuing pain. The pain may indicate a more serious injury than you initially thought.
Find an Orthopedic Specialist near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Bicyclist Medic, Teenshealth.org, American Academy of Family Physicians