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  1. #1
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    Recent Study Takes Aim at Mountain Bike Injuries

    submitted by: Wilderness Medical Society

    In the last 30 years, the sport of mountain biking has soared exponentially in popularity. It is estimated that in 2009 38 million Americans regularly took part in the sport, sometimes called “free-riding,” where the rider navigates steep slopes and technical terrain.

    In a study published in the latest issue of Wilderness & Environmental Medicine (Elsevier), Ashwell, et al, investigated 898 cases of mountain bike park cyclist who presented to the Whistler Health Clinic in Whister, British Columbia, during a 5-month period. Eight-six percent of those injured were male. And, although the majority of patient injuries were rated as mild to moderate in severity, 12.3% of riders experienced injuries that were considered potentially threatening to life, limb, or function and 9.5% required transfer to a higher level of care.

    The results of this research are the first attempt at describing the epidemiology of injury associated with lift-accessed free-ride mountain biking. They demonstrate the spectrum of morbidity of such injuries. The Whistler study findings suggest planning for increased staffing for injuries on weekends and during the month of August, and highlight the need for improved upper extremity protection and more effective head injury protection for this sport. The authors of this study suggest that given the relative rarity of injury from bike-to-bike crashes, injury prevention strategies will need to focus on methods for maintaining control of the bike. Additionally, the authors conclude that “further research should include exposure information as well as specific information about which trail features are associated with injury, evaluate the long-term outcomes after bike park injuries, assess the costs of care after injury, and attempt to identify acceptable injury rates in this increasingly popular sport.”

    The free full-text online article may be accessed at Elsevier. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine is published by Elsevier Inc., for the Wilderness Medical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah. Wilderness Medical Society
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  2. #2
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    I firmly believe only 30% of mountain biking injuries are related to riding. I can't count how many times I've cut myself working on a bicycle or smashing my fingers!

  3. #3
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    most of the stuff that I consider "free-riding" has a pretty high cost of failure.... not that accidents don't happen on a "regular" trail, but...

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    I understand the desire to try and create better protective gear to help prevent injuries, and I'm sure there is much room for improvement. On the other hand, every FR/DH rider out there knows the inherent dangers of what they are doing. You can make stronger helmets and pads all you want, it won't change the fact that if you bail while hucking yourself down a mountain, more than likely you'll be slightly more broken than at the top of the trail.
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  5. #5
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    I can get hurt Mountain Biking?

  6. #6
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    No pain, no gain.

    Or so I tell myself, hoping that I've learned something useful after smashing into the ground yet again.

  7. #7
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    Please note Whistler is in a region of free medical care....

    Hence big brother is always there to reduce injure costs.

  8. #8
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    38 million did NOT participate in lift-accessed "free ride mountain biking" I can almost guarantee that....

    Love how they word these articles....Plus BC has some of the most advanced riding in north america....sheesh...

    I would like to see a study of injury vs people actually getting healthy instead of being lazy fat turds that don't go outside.....

    Riding.....

  9. #9
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    I wonder how many people ski? Plus how many of them get
    hurt doing it?

  10. #10
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    Insurance bills don't lie

    This spring I talked to one of the Shasta Mountain Guides about insurance. The lowest: Rock climbing groups. The highest: Mountain bike tours, not wild land skiing on a 14K + volcano.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shark View Post
    38 million did NOT participate in lift-accessed "free ride mountain biking" I can almost guarantee that....

    Love how they word these articles....Plus BC has some of the most advanced riding in north america....sheesh...

    I would like to see a study of injury vs people actually getting healthy instead of being lazy fat turds that don't go outside.....

    Where did they get these numbers? Did they survey mtbers asking if they've ever ridden "freeride" trails, guaranteed at least 90% said yes, even though their wheels never leave the ground lol. The real number I would think would be less than 1% of that 38 million, worldwide. Only 10% of the mtbers I encounter actually ride at bike parks. Most every rider wants to ride like a freeride or world cup star but in reality most of us won't or can't. I can't afford injuries that keep me out of work, so a reality check is in order. Living in a country of fat out of shape lardasses who eat fast food at least once a day, promoting this type of riding is what will bring the kids in and keep 'em skinny. When was the last time you saw a fat kid at the dirt jumps? Every time I see rugrats riding the ski slope it brings a smile to my face, do you think the parents are worried their kids will suffer a horrific accident? You're at infinitely higher risk of a car accident driving to and from the resort. Stepping out of bed everyday inherently brings the risk you'll possibly die today, at least we'll be healthy and happy.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by masterofnone View Post
    Where did they get these numbers? Did they survey mtbers asking if they've ever ridden "freeride" trails, guaranteed at least 90% said yes, even though their wheels never leave the ground lol. The real number I would think would be less than 1% of that 38 million, worldwide. Only 10% of the mtbers I encounter actually ride at bike parks. Most every rider wants to ride like a freeride or world cup star but in reality most of us won't or can't. I can't afford injuries that keep me out of work, so a reality check is in order. Living in a country of fat out of shape lardasses who eat fast food at least once a day, promoting this type of riding is what will bring the kids in and keep 'em skinny. When was the last time you saw a fat kid at the dirt jumps? Every time I see rugrats riding the ski slope it brings a smile to my face, do you think the parents are worried their kids will suffer a horrific accident? You're at infinitely higher risk of a car accident driving to and from the resort. Stepping out of bed everyday inherently brings the risk you'll possibly die today, at least we'll be healthy and happy.
    I understand your point....

    But the 38 million would refer to peole days on the hill (or some such number)....

    That way they can take the medical costs and divide by the people days on the hill...

    Then assign that as a cost when it comes time to renegoicate the mountain use consession...

    Remember this is Canada.

  13. #13
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    I thought flying down a mountain would be safer than it is...

  14. #14
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    Doesn't matter if it's Canada... the U.S. will follow... it's Govt. Nannies, Insurance Companies, and the "concerned public" who will create the fear mongering over the sport of Mountain Biking.

    Protection through legislation gets pretty ugly no matter what the powers-that-be think is the most fashionable danger activity of the day.

    See these words...
    "...highlight the need for improved upper extremity protection and more effective head injury protection for this sport."
    regulating what people have to wear when mtbing

    "...suggest that given the relative rarity of injury from bike-to-bike crashes, injury prevention strategies will need to focus on methods for maintaining control of the bike."
    regulating trail design (flow, steepness, surface conditions...), and bike design

    “...further research should include exposure information as well as specific information about which trail features are associated with injury..."
    regulating trail design(again), regulating rating systems for riders

    "...evaluate the long-term outcomes after bike park injuries, assess the costs of care after injury..."
    This is the argument used for such things as seatbelt laws for adults, MC helmet laws for adults, Gun Control laws, Smoking by individuals in private settings and public(but privately owned) eating and drinking establishments, and others

    "...attempt to identify acceptable injury rates in this increasingly popular sport."
    Very scary words here! Yep... they know what's good for you and what you should/shouldn't be doing!

    I've worked in the medical field since the mid-70s.
    I have ridden motorcycles, owned firearms, and engaged in "risky" behavior both as a civilian and while employed by various govt entities.

    I don't smoke.. never have... never will, but I don't go to Casinos largely because they allow smoking in most all of them... I would never agree they need to ban smoking in Casinos due to health reasons. I don't own the casinos so it's none of my business if they allow smoking or not. Same for eating establishments and bars.
    Basically, I don't like a nanny state.. which is what the U.S. has become.
    Adults should be allowed more freedom to exercise choices they feel are right for them.
    Yeah... I know some things will get you killed and if you have loved ones depending on you for support... too bad.

    I have seen plenty of death both as a professional and as a family member.
    I don't take this issue lightly.
    If the activity in question is a danger to more than the individual who partakes in it... sure, create some safety... laws or otherwise.
    But... if we're going to legislate personal choice based upon "those we leave behind"... then it should be even across the board... to include things already mentioned like the food we eat, the liquids we drink, the mode of transportation we choose (speed governors on all vehicles, for example), so on and so forth...

    As for the cost to society from uninsured medical expenses... I personally think if a person does not have the money or insurance to pay for injuries sustained through personal activities when the injury is clearly their own fault... don't treat them.
    Someone wants to hike in the forest, climb a mountain, and gets in trouble... no more SAR.
    People need to learn that to undertake a dangerous endeavor of their own freewill means they also take personal responsibility for anything that happens other than harm brought to them by other individuals/companies.

    WHEW! That was a tall soapbox! Someone get me a ladder so I can get down off this thing!

  15. #15
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    This is great. It is the beginning of understanding the circumstances which evoke injury. This is something that High School racing has done as well. There is so much data shared amongst trainers and leaders that the idea of "accidents" becomes ridiculous. Circumstances and behavior paradigms can be constructed and implemented. Rate of injury plummets.

    In the broadest of brushstroke it mean that we slow down and build gradually. Traditional racers and jock coaches resist this until their kids crash themselves slow.

    I'm betting that in the end just slowing down and building skills will work wonders. In that context riding "at the edge" becomes foolhardy.
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  16. #16
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    For 898 patients, 11.2% had traumatic brain injury. The most common injuries were fractures (~50%) with 74.2% being upper extremity fractures (74.2%). When looking at fractures, the most common were:

    1. Shoulder (inc clavicle)
    2. Wrist
    3. Fingers
    4. Elbow
    5. Ribs.

    While the data on what protective gear was worn was scant (other than everyone wearing helmets), we all know the most commonly worn protection by mountain bikers are helmets, gloves, and lower leg armor. I had always figured these were the most important pieces of gear. The study doesn't support my previous assumptions for leg armor (unless it is skewed because they all had lower extremity armor). The MAJORITY of lower extremity fractures were ankles! The mechanics of mtb falls explains why upper extremity injuries lead.

    My personal anecdotal experience is that I have broken a wrist and an elbow DH. Now I wear wrist guards every day I DH. My chest protector has better shoulder/clavicle protection than most (still inadequate). Some people laugh because I wear so much armor... or maybe it is just because my armor makes me look way more rad than I actually am. What do you wear for armor?

    The TBI rate is huge. Our bike helmets are clearly not sufficient, even the ones that conform to the slightly higher standards. We go much faster than they are tested. But, I feel like a DOT helmets would wreck my neck and be intolerably hot. I have seen a lot of riders using neck braces, but not DOT helmets. Thoughts?

    FULL TEXT OF ARTICLE AVAILABLE FREE HERE: Elsevier
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  17. #17
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    I wear a 661 Vapor suit (chest, back, elbow), 661 Leg/Shin armour, a full-face & a camelback when I ride downhill.

    I'm sure I look like a dweeb, but the ability to keep riding after a crash is pretty nice. Not sure that any of this stuff would prevent a broken bone however. MTB is just a risk-inherant sport.
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  18. #18
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    Everything has risk to it. Even putting yourself in a bubble has risks.

    Driving to work is pretty dangerous if you really think about it. You are out there with hundreds of people you don't even know out there wizzing past you at 70 mph and you don't even know how coherent they are.
    I don't use Strava. Don't need an application to tell me I am slow because I already know.

  19. #19
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    Risk Management, we take risks, somehow we manage.

  20. #20
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    We all know there is risk. This study gives us a quantitative look at consequences. Can we use this information to mitigate risk while still doing what we enjoy?
    Lacerations through intact armor are a mark of talent... or stupid... or both...

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    Hmm... The idea is risk is it not? I did on day at ski resort doing downhill runs. I personally did not like it. Still I don't care if people want to do it. Some people like taking risks and guess what. If you are going down a mounting and 45 mph it will hurt if you crash. You can make the bikes easier to control and better to soak up bumps an all you will do is crash at 50 mph or off of a 1 foot larger drop. Same for making the trails smoother. The fun is pushing to the limits. I am not against safety gear or taking out clear trail dangers, but the whole ideat is to push yourself. I personally thing mountain biking is alot safter than road roading simply due to traffic. On mtb I can control how much risk I am willing to take. I can control what trails I ride and how fast I ride them. I can chose to dismount at a nasty spot try to ride it and take on some risk. On road bike I car could slam into me and kill me without me doing anything dumb at all.

    I have been racing cars for 10 years now an on a race track you learn to take risks and push yourself. You cannot win races without taking risks, but those risk are managed. You learn to accept some work around others. I see mountain biking as just the same. We each need the freedom to chose how much risk we are willing to take.
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  22. #22
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    Downhill skiing has interesting injury rates.

    This is anecdotal, from talking to ski patrollers and on-site medical people, so obviously not peer-review material...

    Beginners have pratfalls and get hurt. Wrists, thumbs, that kind of thing.
    Intermediate skiers go faster and get hurt more. Same deal, but let's add collar bones. Note that this is basing their ability on the runs they're on, so it's probably often lower-intermediate folks who are going too fast for where they are and their skill. The worst ski resort injury days (in Tahoe, and according to the medical staff at the resort where I worked) are cold weekend days when it hasn't snowed in a while. The groomed runs have icy surfaces, aggressive intermediates get going really fast, and people have trouble keeping their skis under them.
    Advanced skiers actually have a lot less orthopedic stuff. They're frequently on less crowded slopes, they're much more likely to be skiing in control, and they're ironically often a bit more conservative about what they do, especially since they're beginning to place themselves in much higher-consequence situations on occasion. Certainly the ability to look down from a ridgeline and decide I wasn't ready to ski something is something I didn't develop for a while. As an intermediate, I'd sack up and do it, and sometimes wipe out, sometimes badly. I think I needed to get a little older, fall a few times, and also recognize that I was getting further and further away from main runs and there were more rocks and trees to hit. At some resorts, advanced skiers trigger avalanches skiing out of bounds on unstable slopes when they shouldn't.

    A lot of the really spectacular stuff happens on high-consequence terrain, of course. Some of it by skiers who've done that stuff before and made a mistake. But it seems like most of the really nasty things I've heard about have been intermediates ducking ropes and putting themselves in places they don't belong.

    So I often wonder if there's a similar pattern in mountain biking. When I was learning, in college, I fell a lot and while I never did worse than a minor elbow sprain (knock wood,) I got cut up pretty frequently. The truth is that I was riding too hard for my ability level at the time. Now I ride more conservatively. I wish I had data from when I was in college, because I think I'm actually going quite a lot faster. I'm just being more conservative relative to how I see my skill level. Everyone enjoys sharing stories about someone they saw unloading a super-expensive bike from his super-expensive car and then later wiping out badly when he went over a drop or something with his ass firmly planted and his weight forward. (Or standing on locked knees and same deal.) I think mountain bikers as a group may be even a little worse than skiers deciding to charge things they haven't done before.
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  23. #23
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    Is this report possibly the same report that came out awhile back, but with a new spin on it?

    The review of the original article, IIRC, stated that you can't generalize MTB crash statistics from Whistler because there is almost nowhere else that compares to it. There WILL be a dramatic incidence of particular injuries at this venue due to the terrain and the equipment involved with the sport.

    If I am recalling correctly, they have simply adjusted the spin on the stats without really making them any more relevant to the "normal" "everyday" "XC" mountain biking in which "most" people engage (please supply your own definition for terms in quotes ).

    Increased safety gear and other technical equipment upgrades would NOT increase safety in any way. It would just give riders an excuse to go faster - still assuming as much perceived risk as they want.
    Trail design to limit speed actually works, but obviously there is a demand for advanced features. A rider's just got to know their limitations.

    I would have to think the statistics for injuries per off-road bicycle mile traveled are generally pretty low. Although, in all honesty, my severity has been up while my frequency has been down... so I'm starting to get nervous again. Though, statistically speaking I am due to increase my frequency and reduce my severity to stay in the middle of all the bell curves. I can live with that.

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  24. #24
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    Let's sit home and get fat on the couch! No injury there!

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by SummitAP View Post
    We all know there is risk. This study gives us a quantitative look at consequences. Can we use this information to mitigate risk while still doing what we enjoy?
    I think so. I'm much more interested in upper body protection for big down hills now!

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