4 Most Common Cycling Injuries
Cycling is more than a sport. For many people, it has become the healthier, cheaper and more eco-friendly option for going to work and travelling short or medium distances. Some people prefer to make a holiday on the bike, and discover new places and wonderful landscapes by pedalling at a faster or more leisurely speed.
No matter how you prefer to ride a bicycle, you should know that you are exposed to a series of injuries, which are closely associated with cycling. This should not deter you from getting on a bike – instead, read on and find out how to prevent these injuries and what to do in case they happen.
To clear things up a bit, we do not refer in this article to injuries which occur when you fall off your bike. These are regular bruises and cuts, and by wearing adequate protection equipment (helmet, elbow and knee guards) you can minimise their negative effects on you. Instead, we are talking about the kind of injuries which occur over time from overuse of your muscles, or from an incorrect position on the bicycle.
Without further introductions, these are the most common types of injuries which a cyclist may suffer:
- Lower Back Pain
Pain in the lower back tends to become chronic if left untreated, so you should start worrying as soon as you feel it. In cycling, the most frequent cause of lower back pain is riding on a bike with a wrong frame for your height.
Yes, setting your bike frame properly is very important, and this is why there are frame calculators available online, which take into account not only your height and weight, but also the type of bicycle you want to ride: mountain bike, BMX bike, road bike or children’s bike. If you are unsure how to set your bike correctly, go to any specialized store and the problem will be solved.
As soon as you feel lower back pain, apply the RICE method (rest – ice – compression – elevation), go to a few sessions of professional massage, and find out if your bike is the wrong size or whether you are riding in an incorrect position – a lot of bikers bend excessively over the handle, trying to achieve a more aerodynamic shape and thus increase their pedalling speed.
- IT Band Syndrome
The iliotibial band is a tendon formed of many fibres which runs from the hip to the outer side of the knee. Just imagine the pedalling movement and you will understand how much effort is being done by the IT band. Besides the regular wear and tear which this tendon suffers from, an incorrect position of the saddle will make things much worse.
If your saddle is set too high or too low, the position of the knee changes, as well as the entire complex of movements which your muscles make in pedalling. The ideal position of the saddle is when you have 1-2 inches of clearance between the top tub of saddle and the crotch as you are standing, straddling the bike. Another issue which causes IT band strain in cycling is toeing – that is, putting only your toe in the pedal because you feel that you gain more strength and speed in pedalling.
The easy and mild cases of IT band strain can be treated at home, using the RICE method, and then rebuilding strength through stretching exercises, but if you are not healed within 10-12 days, you should see your doctor.
- Foot Numbness
This condition means a partial or total loss of feeling in the feet. This condition, although scary if it sets in while you are pedalling, is not serious, and it will go away in a short time after you get off the bike and take off your sport shoes.
The main reason it occurs is due to wearing ill-fitting shoes. You should always buy sport shoes especially made for cycling, because if you squeeze a running shoe into the pedal, it will exercise a crushing pressure on the metatarsal bones in your foot. Even when selecting cycling shoes, take into account your pedalling style (ideally, bring the bike with you when trying shoes on) and make sure that you do not feel pressure in the ball of the foot.
- Patellar Tendonitis
This injury affects the tendon right below your kneecap. It usually occurs when the saddle position is too low or you use big gears on the bicycle. For this reason, the glutei muscles are not used as much as they should to give you strength and momentum in pedalling, especially uphill. Instead, the quadriceps muscles in your leg do most of the work and become fatigued over time.
Resting, icing and wearing a compressive bandage for a few days will generally help heal this condition. In order to avoid it, always use an adequate size of gears, adjust your saddle to a correct position and vary the cadence of your pedalling, even if you are cycling on a flat road.