With the warm weather we are having this summer, cycling is proving a popular choice for those wanting to increase their activity levels and improve their fitness. With increased activity comes the increased chance of injury if the correct prevention strategies aren’t employed.
So, what are the most common predisposing factors to injury when it comes to cycling?
The first and most obvious risk factor is from collisions. Falls can result in a multitude of injuries, from head injuries to fractures of the hand, wrist or shoulder. Falls from the bike are a hard one to prevent due to unpredictable factors such as other road users and potential obstacles or changes in road surface. However, good core stability will give riders the best chance of maintaining balance and having the reactions to correct a potential fall. Examples of good core exercises include planks and single leg deadlifts to name a few.
The second factor to take into consideration is the development of muscular imbalance synonymous with the movement pattern and body position involved with cycling. The most powerful phase of movement is the initiation of the drive phase, at the beginning of the pedal push. This initiation of leg extension is created predominantly by the lateral (outer) most muscle of the upper leg (vastus lateralis). Over development of this muscle can cause the patella (knee cap) to be pulled outwards, leading to a painful condition called ‘maltracking patella’. In order to help reduce this effect a rider can ensure that they loosen off the lateral muscles and strengthen the medial (inner) muscles of the upper leg. This can be done by foam rolling the outside of the upper leg and by working the inner most muscle called VMO (vastus medialis obliqus).
Another factor to bear in mind is the effect of cycling on the tightening of the hamstring and calf muscles. Both hamstring and calf restriction can play a big role in the development of anterior knee pain (pain at the front of the knee). This is a problem which is exacerbated by modern lifestyles. Lots of sitting (in cars, on trains and at work) also leads to tightening of the hamstrings. This doesn’t only lead to pain in the knees, but can also be a causative factor to a tilted pelvis and consequently low back pain. The best way to avoid this is to always stretch following a bike ride. Contrary to common belief, stretching before exercise isn’t the most important time. A gentle increase in exercise intensity and some functional movement patterns before activity are best (squats and multi directional lunges) and post exercise should be used to stretch statically, holding for at least 20-30 seconds repeating three times per body part.
The forward flexed position adopted while cycling is yet another contributor to back and or neck pain. Due to this position being adopted, sometimes for hours at a time, it is important to work the body in the opposite direction, so exercises involving lumbar extension can be useful (deadlifts, lower back extensions).
Cycling is an excellent way to improve cardiovascular health and burn off some extra calories and by observing some of the aforementioned prehabilitation strategies, some of the most common injuries can be avoided!
A great way to discover any biomechanical issues you may have and begin taking some simple steps to help prevent injury is by booking in for a free 15 min consultation or functional movement screen at our clinic in Stevenage. Call us on 0845 30 111 89 or 01438 364652.