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Training & Nutrition

How to prevent the top 5 most common cycling injuries

We all know how wonderful cycling is; the wind in your hair, sun on your face, pedalling away, being at one with nature in the great outdoors – bliss!

Unfortunately though, this is not always the case.

Poorly set up bikes, the wrong clothing choice or any number of issues can lead to injuries. We want to help prevent you from having an uncomfortable riding experience before it happens, so we asked Tom Astley of TA Physio who specialises in sports rehab and injury prevention, to help you avoid the 5 most common cycling injuries.

Tom’s top 5 cycling injuries:

  1. Lower Back Pain
  2. ITB Syndrome
  3. Foot Numbness
  4. Cuts & Grazes
  5. AC Joint Sprain

1. Lower Back Pain

Static, forward bending position lends itself to back pain

What is it?

The repeated and prolonged held position in cycling means stress goes through the whole of the spine. Combined with the flexed, bent-over style adopted while sitting on a bike, lower back pain can often seem inevitable.

Prevention

Prevention is better than cure. Back pain can be avoided by simply having your bike set up correctly to avoid over reaching in the case of a frame being too large and hunched posture in the case of the frame being too small.

It is also essential to warm up, head to toe, cycling mainly involves the lower limbs but the spine is involved. Don’t neglect it! Why not give the yoga for cyclists video a try before your next ride.

2. ITB Syndrome

What is it?

The ITB (Iliotibial Band) is highly talked about in rehabilitation and physiotherapy. It’s seen as a problem in many knee injuries and is commonly affected among cyclists due to the repeated bending and straightening of the knee.

The ITB runs from your hip to the outside of your knee, so the repetitive motion of cycling can lead to ITB becoming irritated as it moves over the outside of the knee.

Prevention

ITB Syndrome is another injury that can often be attributed to poor bike set. As saddle height dictates knee position while riding, if it’s too high then the knee tends to over straightens, if it’s too low then the knee over bends.

Ideally the saddle height should be set to allow a small knee bend when the pedal reaches the very bottom of the revolution. It’s also advisable to avoid “in-toeing” (feet pointing inwards) when cycling, this increases the stress through the ITB. If you’re struggling with a sore ITB, it can be offloaded and supported through the cycling motion with some SportTape Kineisiology tape.

3. Foot Numbness

Look after your tootsie’s and they’ll keep you riding, injury free

What is it?

Foot numbness is a loss of feeling in the feet. It is common among cyclists and it’s not solely down to the cold weather we endure in the UK. Ill-fitting cycling shoes squeezing the metatarsal heads, cleats being placed too far forward causing increased pressure around the ball of the foot or cycling technique including low cadence and excessive hill riding can all lead to numbness problems.

Prevention:

Prevention of foot numbness can be achieved through correctly fitting shoes. Position of the cleats is also important – ensuring that pressure is focused on the correct area of the sole of the foot. Hill climbing is important in cycling events too but hill training should be tapered, so reducing hill climbing may help alleviate the problem. Hill climbing involves excessive push phases of cycling which means increased foot pressure, hence numbness.

4. Cuts & Grazes

Saddles sores are not nice, but they can be prevented

What are they?

Cuts and grazes, or ‘road-rash’ as it’s often termed, generally occurs as a result of falls to the ground. However, friction is also responsible for other pesky injuries.

The common-most location for friction to occur is where rider meets bike – the saddle.

Prevention:

Cuts and grazes can be avoided by concentrating on your ride and staying on your bike – simples.

Saddle sores can be avoided somewhat by a comfortable saddle, correct saddle angulation, sufficient cycle short padding and chamois cream. The more you ride, the easier it gets, so ride regularly and it’ll get better. It may be possible settle this post-ride by sitting on an ice pack for 10 minutes but this may raise some eyebrows in the post-ride pub.

5. AC Joint Sprain

What is it?

The Acromioclavicular (AC) joint is one part of the shoulder complex and consists of the collar bone joining to the front of the shoulder blade, which is held together by strong ligaments. An AC joint sprain refers to damage to these stabilising ligaments. It takes a large force to cause these sprains such as a fall or launching into a monster drop such as a pothole or off-road obstacle.

Your elbows and wrists are generally locked in position when holding handlebars on a bike. When a large force is applied, these forces are transferred up to the shoulder joint.

Prevention:

The simple answer is to avoid falling. The AC joint is vulnerable to injury during falls and large front wheel forces created by those lovely potholes. Try to use the elbows as a shock absorber if your can’t avoid those huge public road ruts and bumps. AC Joint sprains occur at different degrees, and the severity of the injury dictates what can be done to rehab it.

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