Statistics from the US Department of Transportation show that cycling fatalities continue to increase each year, so above all, safety when cycling should be our number one concern as cyclists and drivers. Always wear helmets, use reflective gear, obey traffic laws, avoid congested areas, and, if riding alone, let someone know your ride plan. Let's prevent tragic accidents altogether so that the only cyclists in the headlines are race resulted.
With that being said, cycling is a great form of fitness and of course common injuries will occur. Here are some of the most common and how to prevent and treat them.
Knee pain is the most common injury to cyclists. It can be related to patella or quadriceps tendinitis, plica syndrome, IT band friction syndrome, or patella chondromalcia. Usually it is related to overuse, so rest or reducing your mileage can help. It is persists be sure to check your seat height and tilt as his could lead to increased stress on your knees while riding. Shoe cushions and wedges can also help.
Wear a helmet! Helmets have been proven to reduce the risk of head injury by 85%. Helmets are inexpensive and they may save your life! It's just not worth it!
WRIST/FOREARM PAIN OR NUMBNESS
This can be prevented by riding with a slight bend in your elbow so that they act like shock absorbers. Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms or "cyclist's palsy" may manifest with numbness and tingling in the wrist and hand. This can be prevented by using padded gloves and by shifting your weight to the outer aspect of your palms.
A common complaint of male riders who ride a lot is pudendal neuropathy which is numbness or pain in the genital area. This occurs due to compression of the blood supply and nerves to that area. A wider padded seat may help or even removing part of the seat is necessary. Changing the tilt of the seat or rising padded shorts may relieve the pressure on the pudendal nerve and blood supply. Males who spend excessive amounts of time on the bike have a higher risk of other problems also such as erectile dysfunction and infertility.
FOOT PAIN OR NUMBNESS
These are very common complaints and are often due to narrow or ill fitted shoe wear. In rare cases the cause could be nerve compression or exertional compartment syndrome. So, symptoms that persist for long periods of time after riding may require physician consultation.
Cycling is a fun sport and a great way to stay fit which can be enjoyed by all ages. Properly fitted and adjusted gear can help prevent problems and injuries. Consult your physician if any of these problems become severe and non-responsive to simple treatments like rest, ice, and over the counter medications. Above all, ride smartly and safely! And ALWAYS wear your helmet!
Malcolm Stubbs, MD