UCHealth: Tips to help you avoid common cycling injuries

A bike lies in the road. Biking is a great way to exercise, but it can also lead to injuries.
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Biking is a great way to stay active and healthy, and it’s a low-cost, environmentally friendly way to get around. But biking can also result in injuries.

Dr. Jim Cotter, an emergency medicine physician at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, outlines common bike injuries and safety tips below.

Scrapes and bruises

If you’ve ever fallen off your bike, chances are you’ve dealt with some scrapes and bruises.

“The most common injuries are going to be skin and soft tissue injuries — contusions, bruises and road rash,” Cotter said.

While most of these injuries can be managed at home, large, deep or dirty wounds likely need to be examined.

“If you’ve got a lot of gravel or foreign bodies in the wound, that can get infected,” Cotter said. “Get evaluated and watch for subsequent signs of infection, such as redness and fever.”

Fractures and dislocations

It’s instinctual — start to fall, and you’ll most likely put your hand out to brace yourself.

“We’ll see lots of wrist fractures, as well as shoulder dislocations and clavicle fractures,” Cotter said.

If you think you may have broken a bone or dislocated your shoulder, seek medical care.

Abdominal pain

While it’s rare to have an abdominal injury from a bike crash, it can happen. Often, these injuries are serious.

“Anyone with abdominal pain or nausea after a bike crash should be evaluated,” Cotter said. “You may have injured your internal organs. For instance, the spleen is a common place to get injured when you hit the handlebars.”

Head injuries

Some of the most serious injuries that can result from a bike accident are head injuries. Don’t hesitate to see your provider if you think you may be suffering from a concussion or other head injury.

“These can be the most devastating, especially if you’re not wearing a helmet,” Cotter said. “Any time you have a head injury with any symptoms — headache, vomiting, loss of consciousness — you should seek medical care.”

Safety tips

One of the most important things you can do to stay safe while biking is to always wear a helmet.

“On the trail, wearing helmets is commonplace,” Cotter said. “But what amazes me is when you get on the road, there can be a significant reduction in the number of people wearing helmets.”

Helmets should be worn any time you’re on your bike, even if it’s just for a short trip around the block.

When biking on a street, be aware of traffic, make sure you’re visible and follow traffic rules for bikes.

“Summer can bring a lot more tourists and a lot more cars,” Cotter said. “You’re not just worrying about yourself, but about others.”

If you’re hitting the trails, consider using gloves and protective gear, such as elbow pads and knee pads.

“Downhill bikers should consider full helmets that have face guards,” Cotter said. “A helmet protects your head, but we do see a lot of facial injuries as well from falls.”

And exercise caution when riding an e-bike.

“E-bikes go a lot faster than most people can pedal,” Cotter said. “And the faster you go, the more significant your injuries are going to be if you have a bike crash.”

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