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Bicycling Injury Prevention

 

 

 


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As with any physical activity, including operating a computer mouse, self-inflicted sports injuries can occur from bicycling.  The good news is that bicycling is a very low-impact sport and riding smart can avoid most of this injuries:

Knee, torso, extremity and other injuries

Knee injuries are probably the most debilitating self-inflicted bicycling injury to consider, but there are a host of other pains that can take the fun away from bicycling.  With a little preparation they can largely be avoided:

Adjust-up

The proper fit of you bike is important can alleviate injury to your neck, back, hands, wrists, crotch, hips, leg muscles and knees. Generally each of these are more likely to reveal themselves as your rides get longer, but you should make the adjustment before any injury begins to manifest itself.  Neck, back, hand and wrist injuries can be a function of the height of the handlebars, angle of your grip, reach and tilt of the seat -- singularly or in combination.  Hip, leg muscle and knee injuries are usually associated with the height of the seat and the position of feet.  There should be a slight bend in your knee at the bottom of the pedal stroke -- about 90% straight. Read on for more information about prevent knee injuries. Chafing and genital irritation can be the consequence of your anatomy and time on the bike, but the proper design and shape of saddle, seat height, use of bicycling shorts, and non-petroleum-base skin lubricant can alleviate or greatly delay any problems.  A good bike fitter can coach you on fine tuning the physical relationships of your bike to prevent injuries.

Warm-up

Dynamic stretches are one form of warm-up.  Your goal is to raise your body temperature and  improve your range of motion, which enhance stability, and ward off muscle tears, knee strain and other injuries.  This should take at least five minute, but might take more than ten minutes.  I find it hard to stretch enough to really warm-up my muscle, so I try to start my ride in "morning mode".  It is actually a good mode for any time you haven't ridden for a while -- like fifteen minutes -- so it is really a universal "warm-up mode" and "re-warm-up mode"  Start you ride in a low "no-sweat" gear and an easy cadence.  If you are on flat ride, after a few minutes your body temperature should warm a little, your heart rate should climb a little, your legs should go through their motions easier, your cadence should easily increase (to 90-100 rpm) and the gear should start to be boring.  When this happens shift one step high and repeat the process until you get to a gear where there is a constant skosh of resistance at 90 rpm and it is not boring. If your ride starts with a climb start in a very, very low gear, and again go very easy until your legs warm-up and stop resisting the movement. Recreational, commuting and touring bicycling should be a no-stress activity -- this includes for your knees and legs. The NYBoneandJoint.com website advises, "If you can avoid using high gears your entire ride, even better! Peddling in a low gear is easier on the quadriceps, which helps ward off tendinitis in the knee."

Build-up

Week-end warriors get injured!  For longevity, it is better to start with low and modest distance and build too longer rides.  If you are just starting or re-starting a bicycle program you should limit your bicycling to fifteen minutes and then switching to something else; depending upon the circumstances maybe walking or a bus ride, or take a swim. Again, NYBoneandJoint.com, "Doing a variety of low-impact activities — such as walking and biking, prevents overuse injuries by allowing the body to use different muscle groups. Over time, as you build up endurance and fitness, you’ll be able to ride longer without the risk of injury."

Line-up

A tip from NYBoneandJoint.com, "The angle of your shoe should conform to the natural angle of your heel. To get a good visual of this, sit on the edge of a table and let your legs relax at a 90 degree angle. Look down: Whatever angle your feet naturally hang should be replicated while you’re on your bike. If you start to feel pain on the outside of your knee (lateral pain) your foot is likely internally rotated. Rotate your toe outward a bit to reduce the pain. If you experience pain on the inside of your knee (medial pain), rotate your toe inward."  As you tier you knees might start to splay-out. Consciously holding them in closer to the bike frame, so the stay in their original alignment with your hips and heels, can help to prevent knee injury.

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