Biking is a fun recreational activity that is enjoyed by people of all ages. Unfortunately, as with all recreational activities, there is always a risk of injury. Biking has been attributed to approximately 300,000 emergency room visits by children every year, with about 10,000 of these visits requiring the child to stay for a few days. For children between the ages of 5-14, bike riding is more commonly the cause of emergency room visits than any other sport injury. So what can you do to keep you and your children safe while riding?
One big concern while riding a bike is head injury. Falling off of a bike, running into an object, or even being hit by a car can all cause possibly serious brain injuries in addition to broken bones and scrapes. Helmets have the ability to reduce the risk of serious brain injuries by 88%. Despite this statistic, only about 45% of children under the age of 14 regularly wear a bike helmet. As parents, this should be a major concern. Enforcing the use of a helmet may save your child’s life. This video gives the proper instructions for fitting a child’s bike helmet to ensure the safest use.
In addition to making sure that your child wears a helmet, it is also important to enforce proper road rules and other safety tips, including:
- Ride on the right side of the road, not against traffic
- Stay as far to the right as possible
- Use appropriate hand signals when indicating turns, stops, etc.
- Stop at all stop signs and stoplights
- Make eye contact with drivers and make sure drivers are paying attention
- Wear bright clothing, reflectors, and lights when riding at dusk, dawn, or in the evening
Parents should also actively supervise their children until they believe the children are responsible to ride on their own.
In addition to safe riding etiquette and use of helmets, proper bike fit can also reduce riding injury. It is important to note that not all injuries are related to trauma from falling off of a bike. Some injuries result from repetitive strain while in the wrong position on your bike. Some common injuries due to improper bike fit include:
- Anterior (front) knee pain – possibly due to saddle height (too low), pedaling speed (slow), using the quadriceps muscle too much, misaligned bicycle cleat, or muscle imbalance
- Neck pain – possibly due to handlebar (too high or low) or saddle (excessive downward tilt) position
- Low back pain – possibly due to tight hamstrings, pedaling speed (slow), using the quadriceps muscle too much, back muscle weakness, or handlebar position (too high or low)
- Hamstring tendinitis – possibly due to tight hamstrings, saddle height (high), misaligned bicycle cleat, or hamstring weakness
- Hand numbness or pain – possibly due to handlebars position (too high), poorly placed brake levers, or the saddle position (downward tilt)
- Foot numbness or pain – possibly due to use of the quadriceps muscle too much, pedaling speed (slow), poor foot mechanics, or misalignment of the bicycle cleat
- Ilio-tibial band tendonitis – possibly due to saddle position (too high), leg length difference, or misalignment of the bicycle cleat
Some posture tips to reduce your risk of developing these problems include: changing your hand position frequently when riding, keeping a controlled but relaxed grip of the handlebars, avoiding rocking the pelvis back and forth while riding, and making sure that there is a slight bend at the knee at the end of your stroke when pedaling on each side. When in doubt consult the experts at Advanced Physical Therapy and Fitness or you local bicycle shop professionals to assist you with proper fit.
We hope these tips are helpful for keeping you safer and injury free while biking this season. If you have any questions on this topic or any others in which you are interested, feel free to leave any questions, comments, or suggestions. Thank you for reading and stay active.
Impact – June 2013 edition, p. 57