Avoiding mountain bike injuries

Avoid Mountain Biking Injuries with the Proper Equipment

by Mark Purnell, MD
(Dr. Purnell is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon. He is a team physician for the U.S. Nordic Ski Team, a founding member of the Sports Medicine Program for the National Off-Road Biking Association, and a team physician for the U.S. Mountain Biking Team.)

Mountain biking is relatively safe compared to other activities. Injuries usually are due to falling, and while injuries may be unavoidable, by knowing your limitations and having appropriate equipment, you can significantly reduce your risk of serious injuries.

The right gear

The most important piece of equipment is the helmet. Head injuries sustained during mountain biking can be quite severe. That's why a helmet should be worn at all times. Replace your helmet after an accident or every three years; the shock-absorbing materials deteriorate over time. Choose a helmet with an ASNI- or Snell-approval sticker and a bright color that can be seen easily by others. The helmet should have a snug fit without pressure points and should be well-ventilated.

Other equipment you need includes:
  • A well-maintained bike. Replacing vital parts on a regular basis can help keep you from having an accident due to bike failure.
  • Safety eyeglasses. A good pair will keep dangerous debris—and the sun—out of your eyes.
  • Full-fingered bicycling gloves. These protect your hands in case of a fall and help prevent blisters.

Get ready

Once you have the proper equipment, you have to prepare your body. Stretching and warming up are very important to avoid injury, especially if you have back problems. If you notice back, knee or urologic problems after riding, you may want to check the fit of your bike and seat. A bike mechanic, physician, or physical therapist can help determine the correct fit for you and help you get safely on your way.

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