When you’re shredding in the mountains you’ve got roots and rocks to worry about, there’s a good chance you’ll be flying at high speed past hundreds of trees or over slippery mud, and you might even be taking on some gnarly drops or jumps as well.
When you’re on the road, it’s just you and the gradient, and the big metal death machines – aka cars, buses etc – that also occupy the tarmac. Of course there are also other cyclists and the risks that come with the toughness of the road if you do fall.
But it may surprise many to know that a recent study has suggested that while mountain biking does indeed lead to more injuries than road cycling, head injuries are actually proportionately far more common in those who cycle on the road.
The study ‘Cycling Injuries in Southwest Colorado: A Comparison of Road vs Trail Riding Injury Patterns’ was published in Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, and over a three-year period tracked 304 patients who had cycling injuries.
Of the 304 patients, 70 percent were male, and 67 percent had sustained trail injuries while 33 percent had suffered injuries while riding on the road.
Pre-hospital care was needed in 16 percent of all of the patients, and the most common injuries were lacerations and abrasions (64%), upper extremity fractures (26%), head injuries (9%), and thoracic trauma (6%).
Interestingly, 16 percent of road cycling injuries were to the head, while only six percent of mountain biking injuries were the same.
Patients with head injuries who didn’t use a helmet were also more likely to require transferring to the neurosurgical unit, though the study notes “this difference did not meet statistical significance."
The full conclusion reads: “Lacerations and abrasions are the most common injuries sustained in cycling. Quantifying the role of protective extremity gear in reducing these injury patterns may be of interest for future studies.
“Protective helmet use may be important in reducing morbidity from cycling-related head trauma; however, more data are needed. Prehospital care providers responding to the injured trail cyclist should be equipped to manage laceration, fracture, head injury, and thoracic trauma in the field."