Rider error, bad conditions cause most mountain biking accidents

By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter

Injury risk is high for downhill mountain bikers, but could be reduced by ensuring trails are in good condition and improving rider technique, say researchers.

They add that wearing good quality protective equipment can also help minimize the risk for injury.

As a result of the increasing popularity of downhill mountain biking around the world, Johannes Becker (Paracelsus Medical University, Salzburg, Austria) and colleagues carried out a survey of riders over the April-September 2011 summer season to assess frequency, types, and causes of injury sustained.

Overall, 249 bikers from Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Austria were surveyed. The mean age was 23.5 years, and ranged from 14 to 53 years. The standard of the riders was generally high, with three beginners, 62 advanced, 157 expert, and 27 professional riders taking part in the study.

Writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Becker and team report that there were 494 injuries during 29,401 hours of riding time - 65% mild (no disruption in riding), 22% moderate (slight sports restriction required for recovery), and 13% severe (disruption or total restriction of sports participation required). This translated to an overall injury rate of 16.8 injuries per 1000 hours of riding.

The most common injury sites were the lower leg, forearm, and knee, at 27%, 25%, and 21%, respectively. The most common forms of injuries were abrasions (n=316) and contusions (n=279).

Most self reported causes of injury were riding errors, at 72%, followed by bad trail condition, at 31%.

Of note, there was a significant difference in rate of injury between experts and professionals, with professionals having a 34% lower rate than experts, at 13.4 versus 17.9 injuries per 1000 hours of riding. This is likely to reflect the greater skill level of the professional riders at avoiding injury.

"Downhill biking can be considered as an extreme sport with a high risk of injury," write the authors. "More attention should be paid on local trail conditions, considering bad weather as well as routine checking of the trails for unwanted obstacles."

They add that professional instruction courses can help riders improve their technique and suggest that "the use of protective equipment should be more encouraged."

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  1. Terri Sweet Terri Sweet United States says:

    Downhill mountain biking is inherently dangerous. The courses are designed to be dangerous/challenging (with bad conditions). The winner is the one who sustains the fewest injuries. Rider error is inevitable. The courses are designed to make injury highly likely. Promoting unsafe riding conditions (a downhill course) and making them available to riders is the source of most mountain biking accidents.

  2. Mike Vandeman Mike Vandeman United States says:

    Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1994: http://mjvande.nfshost.com/mtb10.htm . It's dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don't have access to trails closed to bikes. They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else -- ON FOOT! Why isn't that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking....

    A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it's not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see http://mjvande.nfshost.com/scb7.htm ). I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

    Those were all experimental studies. Two other studies (by White et al and by Jeff Marion) used a survey design, which is inherently incapable of answering that question (comparing hiking with mountain biking). I only mention them because mountain bikers often cite them, but scientifically, they are worthless.

    Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the area, and, worst of all, teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it's NOT!). What's good about THAT?

    To see exactly what harm mountain biking does to the land, watch this 5-minute video: http://vimeo.com/48784297.

    For more information: http://mjvande.nfshost.com/mtbfaq.htm .

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News-Medical.Net.
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