Health Update- Mountain Biking versus Road Cycling Injuries

By: Dr. Laura Wenger, PT, OCS

Ellen pushing it hard on the trail.
Ellen pushing it hard on the trail.

In early May, Ellen and John participated in the 12-hours of Mesa Verde in a team of four riders representing Tomsic PT. Although they experienced a little bit of rain and mud on the course, it was a perfect day for riding compared to last year when the race was canceled one lap in due to inclement weather.

Luckily, all of our team members came out of the race unscathed. A recent study out of Telluride, Colorado looked at cycling versus trail riding injuries finding that, unfortunately, not all riders are that lucky!1

John ripping it up on the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde course.
John ripping it up on the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde course.

Here are some quick facts that Dr. Kotlyar from the Telluride Medical Center found:

  • In 2013, 8.5 million Americans participated in mountain biking.1 The popularity of the sport has been steadily increasing and has become increasingly popular with the development of lift-accessed terrain so that ski resorts can find purpose during the summer months.1 As we know in Durango, you don’t need a lift to access great trails, but many folks find appeal in skipping the grueling uphill that some trails require.
  • When comparing biking injuries, about 70% of the injuries are related to mountain biking where the other 30% are related to road cycling.1 Dr. Kotlyar’s study only looked specifically at injuries that went through the Telluride Medical Center Emergency Department, which turned out to be 304 biking-related injuries over the period of three years.1
  • Injuries to the thoracic, or chest, region happen more regularly during mountain biking.1 Also, trail injuries happened to be more common in males and older riders also happened to be the ones suffering more injuries to the thoracic region.1
  • Head injuries occur more often during road riding.1 In addition to that, injuries that occurred while road cycling were more likely to require transfer to a higher level of care than injuries sustained on trail.1
  • 70% of the injuries reported occurred in males.1 This is consistent with the report that there is a 71 to 86% male predominance in bicycle-related sports.1
  • The most common biking-related injuries are lacerations, abrasions, and contusions (64%), with arm, wrist, or hand fractures making up the remaining majority (26%).1 The good thing there is that the more severe injuries, such as head, thoracic, or abdominal injuries, are less common.1

Biking, in both mountain and road forms, is a very popular sport in Durango and a common recreational activity that our patients want to be able to get back to. Along with the common lacerations, abrasions, and contusions that were seen in the Emergency Department at Telluride Medical Center during this study, we also tend to see a lot of the musculoskeletal aches and pains that come along with road or trail crashes. As your orthopaedic specialists in Durango, we would love to help you get back in the saddle. Call us to schedule your appointment today!

  1. Kotlyar S. Cycling Injuries in Southwest Colorado: A Comparison of Road vs Trail Riding Injury Patterns. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine. 2016. 1-5.