Cycling! What a great way to have fun, burn some calories, get in shape, and feel alive. When we were young, it represented a presence of freedom and independence. We were captivated by the adventurous places to which our bicycles would carry us around our neighborhood. On occasion, we may have hit a bump and fallen off of our bikes, skinning our knees and presumably our egos if we were seen by our friends. For the most part, however, our bicycle was our ticket to ride!
The beauty in cycling is that relatively few injuries happen with a well-fitted bicycle. Cycling is not a high-impact activity or even a full weight-bearing one. Because of that, you can train longer and harder, up to hours at a time, day after day, with a low risk of injury to yourself. As a cyclist, you can train your large muscle groups for longer periods of time with less chance of hurting yourself through an injury. The most common injuries associated with cycling, however, are in the knees, the hands, the shoulders, and the cervical and lumbar parts of the spine.
The knee is a key working joint for the cyclist. The most common knee injury associated with cycling is due to overuse or the proverbial “too much, too soon” dilemma. Some examples of injuries associated with the knees include patellar tendinitis, iliotibial band friction syndrome, pes anserine bursitis, plica syndrome, or hamstring tendonitis. All of these injuries are caused by an inflammatory process and should respond well to icing and anti-inflammatory medications. However, it is important to seek medical advice regarding any medications you might take under these conditions.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is another common cycling injury. Pressure on the carpal tunnel by the handle bars can cause swelling and irritation which can lead to numbness and tingling of the ring and small fingers. Among the other nerve compression syndromes that can be sustained with prolonged hand pressure on the handle bars from cycling include “skier’s thumb,” also known as ulnar collateral ligament injury of the thumb. This type of injury can happen when a cyclist falls and the force from the fall bends the thumb.