(RxWiki News) Mountain biking can be an exhilarating sport, but it can also lead to many types of injuries. Yet a new study reveals a dramatic decrease in mountain-bike related injuries.
Researchers examined the records of mountain bike-related injuries that occurred from 1994 to 2007 and found that the number of these injuries decreased by 56 percent. In 1995, there were more than 23,000 mountain bike-related injuries, the most reported over the 14-year study period. By 2007, this number dropped to a little more than 10,000.
According to Lara McKenzie, Ph.D., principal investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital, the decrease in injuries may be partially due to a decrease in the amount of people who ride mountain bikes. However, she adds, improvements in bicycle technology also may be giving riders more control and thus keeping them safer.
In their findings, the researchers outlined the most common types of injuries. Fractures accounted for 27 percent of injuries, while soft tissue injuries (bruises) accounted for 24 percent and lacerations for 21 percent. Being thrown off the bike or falling, the most common ways injuries occurred, caused 14 percent and 70 percent of injuries respectively.
The type of injury and the risks of sustaining an injury were different for different people. Boys and men sustained most of the injuries. However, girls and women were more likely to suffer hospitalizing injuries. Mountain bikers from 14 to 19 years of age were more likely than those in other age groups to sustain traumatic brain injuries.
Despite this decrease in total injury, mountain bike-related injuries remain common. According to Dr. McKenzie, the observed gender and age differences provide opportunities to reduce injuries by focusing on those groups most prone to injury.
"Cycling and mountain biking require both physical and mental focus to give yourself the best chance of safety. Unfortunately, even for the professional riders, there are unknown obstacles such as slick roads, rocks, cars, or pedestrians that can pose unforeseen challenges. Any rider should wear a helmet because no matter how careful you are there is always a small element of danger," says Jim Crowell, owner of Integrated Fitness (www.if-fit.com) in Pittsburgh. "It is also important to get your blood flowing and your body stretched before your rides. Too many people are not physically prepared to handle those obstacles when they come and it can lead to injury."
The results of this study are published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.