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Mountain bikers most at risk of shoulder and collarbone injuries

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Shoulder and collarbone injuries are the most common injuries suffered in mountain biking, new research shows.

The findings underline the importance of shoulder strength and training — at all levels of the sport — to help prevent these injuries.

Thought to be the largest medical study ever undertaken in mountain biking, the research was conducted by Edinburgh Napier University and funded and supported by the Enduro World Series (EWS).

The study was undertaken to learn more about rider health and track injuries in order to develop the sport and drive forward safer riding and competition.

A team of sports scientists from Edinburgh Napier University analysed injury information from over 2,000 athletes at 10 EWS races, across the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Just 8.9% of riders over the 10 races suffered an injury — a lower injury rate than for mountain biking during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (23.8%), and lower than injury rates seen in rugby, the EWS said.

The shoulder/collarbone (clavicle) was the most commonly injured body location, followed by the head, hand and lower leg. Shoulder/clavicle fractures and hand fractures were the injury diagnoses causing the greatest burden (total days needed to recover from injury).

Over half (56%) of shoulder/clavicle and two-thirds (66%) of hand fractures occurred during falls on rocky stages.

Interestingly, the rate of concussion injury was low — statistically, a rider would have to race 263 EWS events to be in with a chance of suffering just one concussion. However, the researchers noted that female competitors suffered three times the number of concussion injuries seen in the men’s field, an important finding that further research could look to explore.

The research also highlighted the need for more education on head injuries, with a third of riders not taking any time off the bike after a concussion and only 74% of riders aware of the existence of concussion assessment protocols.

To address this, the EWS has released a free pocket guide to concussion for race event staff, organisers and marshals. There is also a concussion pocket guide for riders — detailing how to spot concussion, and how to get help and advice about how to return to riding after a concussion.

The second part of the study involved a rider health and injury survey of almost 2,000 riders from over 60 countries. Survey respondents included elite athletes, amateur racers and recreational riders, and again showed that mountain bike riders are more at risk of suffering shoulder or collarbone injuries than any other.