As most sports enthusiasts know, injury risks never go away. Racing downhill or simply riding in unknown territories comes with its own risks. At some point, every sports enthusiast has dealt with an injury. But it doesn’t mean that many injuries can’t be avoided. In fact, there are a few tips which can be applied straight away to stay safe on the bike, regardless of the riding experience.
The most common extreme sports injuries
Before jumping to the injury-prevention tips, it is advisable to have a quick look at the types of injuries extreme sports enthusiasts face. According to a Sports Medicine study, only 13% of riding injuries are actually severe. But most riders actually experience severe and mild injuries in the lower legs or in the forearms. These injuries were mostly attributed to rider errors in a whopping 72% of riding accidents. Other mild injuries are also common and the include abrasions and contusions.
Ankle injuries are common. The force which impacts ankles when landing on the feet can be too much to handle. This is why good shoes are essential. But working out lower legs mobility, going to the gym or simply taking enough time to stretch the legs can make a difference.
Wrist and forearm injuries are common as well. There’s not too much a rider can do to prevent them as it is instinctive to outstretch the hands to protect the face when falling off the bike. However, basic stretches and weighted single arm exercises with a dumbbell or a cable machine can strengthen the area. Shoulder dislocations can also occur with forearm injuries. Even mild contusions can require taking time off, the following tips should help most extreme sports enthusiasts ride safer.
- Get fit and stay fit
Getting fit is probably the best method to keep injuries away as much as possible. Weight training, bodyweight training and other types of training routines can help. When it comes to specific exercises, riders should know that core strength and shoulder mobility are crucial areas to improve.
An exercise which has proven effective in these areas is bear crawls. It teaches sports fans how to properly transition their power to larger muscles, which are more effective in dealing with demanding situations such as downhill rides. Other shoulder movements such as stretches can go a long way. They can be coupled with forearm stretching such as the extensor stretch or the flexor stretch.
Follow a basic warm up routine
Warming up before a demanding mountain bike ride is not taken seriously at times. But a routine of only a few minutes could prove important when fighting injuries. 5 to 10 minutes of burpees can be a good way to engage the entire body. Even doing a few pushups will target the essential areas of the forearms and shoulders which are so exposed to common injuries.
- Avoid fatigue
One of the root causes of injuries lies in fatigue. In most cases, fatigue can set in when riders have not properly planned their routes. Taking the best decisions when fatigued proves to be difficult. It is often at this stage that both the muscles and the joints are already impacted and vulnerable. Riding a few extra hours can come with its own risks as a result.
- Take full rest days
A passion remains a passion regardless of weather conditions or other variables. But taking full recovery days is important as well. Even staying away from specific exercises and stretching can allow the body to heal between rides. Full rest days come with improved concentration, reduced muscle soreness, a normal heart rate and plenty of sleep for recovery. These days should actually be scheduled on a weekly basis as overtraining can be taxing on the body. But days off can also be a good opportunity to book the next extreme sports holiday. The latest vouchers can come with considerable savings.
- Choose a helmet and wear it
Even with all the information on riding protection, there are plenty of extreme sports fans who aren’t wearing a helmet. In most cases, even the most basic helmet can offer some type of protection to an area which is notorious for serious injuries such as the head.
The same principles apply to exposed joints such as the knee and the elbows. Protective armor, knee and arm pads can prove useful even against basic injuries such as contusions or abrasions. Cycling glasses are another top choice which can even enhance the extreme sports look many riders are after.
- Carry enough water
Staying hydrated is crucial to keep long-term injuries away. It is often while in a dehydrated state that riders end up making poor decisions. Riding in a dehydrated state also comes with a loss of energy which speeds up fatigue and the risk of injuries. It is never a bad idea to carry extra water, especially when exploring new trails where riding can take a few extra hours. In extreme cases, dehydration past the 2% bodyweight mark increases the risk of nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal problems. There are no set guidelines on how much water to drink however, drinking between 150 and 200 ml every 15-20 minutes can be a good method of maintaining proper hydration in extreme sports.
- Maintain focus
Riding on scenic trails can often lead to a loss of attention. Looking at the surrounding environment and taking the eyes off the track can have disastrous consequences. It is a good rule of thumb to be looking ahead up to 40 feet to know what’s coming. It is actually one of the best methods to prevent all types of injuries as it offers that split second to make the decision which could avoid all types of injuries.
- Eject as a last resort
Following all the tips above might still not lead to total protection. Falling off the bike is common when riding a lot and knowing how to fall can be a form of art in itself. There are a few ejection methods and practicing them has its own merits. Ejecting to the side of the bike by lifting one leg over the bar is one of the most popular methods of avoiding a full wipe out.
Taking tight turns on downhill rides can also come with over-the-bar falls. This is when ejection should actually be preventive while using the momentum to the riders’ advantage. It’s hard to practice this one but just trying to remember to tuck and roll is good, if you can think fast enough.
Regardless of the experience of the rider, serious long-term injuries are actually quite rare. One study has shown that only 0.3% of riders in will get injured in 100 hours of cross country rides. Only 4.3% of riders get injured in 100 hours of downhill racing. But even in a fast-paced sport, most injuries as small. When it comes to long-term injuries, many of them can actually be prevented by applying the tips above.
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