The CF Cycle for Life, Chronic Cycling Injuries, & Tips for Prevention

Remember that this Sunday is the Aptalis CF Cycle for Life which is the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s premiere cycling event. On Sunday, October 21, 2012 the CF Foundation- Metropolitan D.C. Chapter will hold its second annual Aptalis CF Cycle for Life event at South Germantown Recreational Park in Germantown, MD. CF Cycle for Life challenges companies and individuals to ride 30 or 65 miles in the most beautiful, scenic and historic areas of Maryland. It’s not a race but rather a ride, while raising money to benefit the CF Foundation.

For more information and to register, visit the Aptalis CF Cycle for Life webpage.

Sport and Spine Rehab will perform pre-ride stretches and will have our volunteer Doctors and staff on site at the start and the finish of the rides. So if you are a friend of Sport and Spine Rehab, come out and see us and support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Overview of chronic cycling injuries and tips for prevention

Chronic injuries in cyclists are common, and up to 85% of riders report experiencing these injuries. One survey showed that 36% of these injuries were considered serious enough to seek medical attention (Schwellnus & Derman, 2005).  These injuries can be classified as intrinsic or extrinsic, whereas intrinsic refers to anatomical and structural issues with the cyclist, and extrinsic relating to external factors such as the bicycle and the environment.  The most commonly reported overuse injuries occur in the neck, knee, groin/buttock, hands, and lower back.   It is important to identify some of the factors that may cause these ailments and to take steps to prevent their occurrence.

Chronic neck pain from cycling can be the result of several different factors combining to put the neck into a biomechanically compromised position.  A raised saddle along with dropped handlebars (common for most racing cyclists) can put the head into a persistently compromised anatomical position, whereas the head remains unsupported for long periods of time.  As a result, the neck musculature is forced to work overtime in order to support the head in an upright position.  This can also be exacerbated by the use of a heavy helmet, which adds to the amount of weight that the neck musculature is being forced to support.

Treatment of this neck pain would involve managing the associated muscle spasm, and making ergonomic changes to the bicycle to optimize proper biomechanical positioning.  As well, conditioning and strengthening of the scapular stabilizers and cervical musculature can help to offset the strain that prolonged periods of cycling can cause.

Chronic knee pain from cycling is another common malady that needs to be addressed.  Patello-Femoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) is the term used to describe pain around the knee cap during flexion and extension of the knee.  Contributing factors to this type of injury can be related to errors in training, such as sudden increases in training volume, incorrect gearing, and increased hill training.  As well, improper equipment issues can contribute to this syndrome, including the type of shoes/cleats being used, improper frame size, and improper saddle height/distance from handlebars.  Muscular imbalances in the quadriceps and hip stabilizer muscles can also be a factor in the development of PFPS.

Another knee malady to be addressed deals more with lateral knee pain (pain on the outside of the knee). The most common cause of lateral knee pain is Iliotibial (IT) band friction syndrome.  The IT band is a band of fascial tissue that starts at the top of the hip and finishes on the outside of the knee just below where it bends.  This band of tissue is exposed to a high amount of mechanical friction when involved in prolonged periods of activity such as cycling or running, and can become irritated.  Management of this injury involves conditioning of the hip stabilizers/quads, adjustment of saddle height, and correcting training errors.  Another tool for management of IT band issues involves the use of a foam roller to maintain pliability and flexibility of the tissue and keeping it from becoming so tight that it is prone to increased friction.

The next most common injury experienced by riders is groin/buttock pain.  Most often, these injuries are as a result of the constant compression experienced by the groin area.  Properly padded shorts and anatomically appropriate saddles are the most important tools in the prevention of these injuries.  Most often, anti-inflammatories are recommended by physicians for pain or creams and powders are recommended to keep the area as dry as possible. Keeping it dry will help to avoid infection and irritation.  Adjusting seat position and height in order to distribute pressure evenly is recommended.

Chronic hand pain is the next most common injury experienced by riders.  Schwellnus & Derman (2005) report that 92% of riders during a 600km multi-stage event reported motor or sensory issues of the hand (numbness, tingling,weakness).  The most common injury is ulnar nerve compression, due to prolonged periods of wrist extension and abduction.  Persistent pressure and vibration contribute to these symptoms.  Treatment and prevention of these symptoms involves the use of cycling gloves, adjusting handlebar height, frequently altering hand position during riding, and reducing the amount of weight being put into the handlebars.  Wrist strengthening exercises would also be recommended to correct muscular imbalances caused by prolonged hand positioning.

If you have any questions, please contact Sport & Spine Rehab by visiting our website today!

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