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Five mountain biking injuries and how to treat them

Scotland is a Mecca for mountain bikers with great trail centres, including Glentress and Fort William, as well as many miles of country and remote singletrack.

The popularity of the sport keeps on growing and there are now a multitude of disciplines within the MTB genre, including x-country, enduro, downhill, cyclocross and even fat biking.

Due to the nature of MTB’ing with unpredictable trails and terrain there is also a potential for injuries. Thankfully, most mountain biking injuries are not serious and feature cuts and bruises although if you are taking part in more serious or high-speed mountain biking it’s worth investing in full body armour as well as a good quality helmet.

Most mountain biking injuries also occur during downhill riding, with the shoulder region, upper arm and wrist most often affected. A broken collar bone and Acromioclavicular joint sprain – shoulder separation – are two of the most frequent mountain biking injuries. These are most likely to happen when  a rider goes over the handlebars.

Then again, not all mountain biking injuries are caused by a fall. Overuse injuries occur due to the repetitive nature of cycling. If the bike set up is incorrect or riders go out and do too much too soon, the chance of injury and niggles increases. 

Five common mountain biking injuries

Cuts and grazes account for the majority of injuries for mountain bikers. It’s possible to avoid more injuries by learning the right technique and skills for the sport and also wearing good protection. 

Treatment depends on the injury but most will heal quickly and need nothing more than a bit of TLC and a basic first aid kit.

A Broken collar bone will take longer to heal and usually requires medical advice.  Again it’s possible to avoid the worst injuries by learning the right technique and skills for riding. Keeping the pace within your comfort zone will help to prevent major falls, too. Collar bone injuries heal in time.

AC Joint Sprain: The AC joint is located at the outer side of the collar bone and attaches to the front of the shoulder blade with strong ligaments. An AC joint sprain normally refers to damage to these ligaments. 

Similar to a broken collar bone the best way to avoid a shoulder sprain is to avoid a fall. Keep an eye out for rocks and tree stumps, which are the most common reason for an abrupt stop and a fall. Also keep your pedals level with your weight distributed evenly between left and right pedal so that you feel more balanced. 

Ice and painkillers help with a sprain and the shoulder can be immobilised with a figure-eight sling for extra pain relief. Ligaments take time to heal.

An expert in kinesiology taping can apply RockTape to a shoulder strain to ease the pain and aid recovery.

Cyclists usually end up with knee pain that is more commonly associated with “runner’s knee”. This is when Ilio Tibial (IT) Band tightens and causes pain in the knee due to over-use or the repetition of a movement. 

During cycling, where there is repeated bending and straightening of the knee joint, the IT Band can impinge upon the outside of the knee. This causes inflammation of the tissues.

Bike set up is vital for avoiding knee pain. The knee shouldn’t be over-extended when the pedal reaches the bottom of its revolution. Toes should not point inwards when pedalling. If you are still experiencing pain seek the advice of an expert bike fit outfit.

RockTape is highly effective for preventing and aiding the recovery of IT Band syndrome. 

The flexed posture while riding can lead to back pain, especially in the lower back area around the discs. In severe cases riders, can suffer a herniated disc, which presses against structures in the back and can cause back pain and sciatica.

It’s vital that the bike is comfortable, with a correct set up. If the frame is too big, riders will over-reach but if it’s too small, you’ll end up hunched up. 

Having a strong core will also help with back pain prevention, so it’s advisable to join a Pilates or yoga class or train with a great core strengthener, HumanX ABX

When back pain does strike you should seek out physio and massage expertise. Also use a foam roller, such as Trigger Point, for effective self-massage or tape your back with RockTape for effective relief. 

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